Bipolar Disorder: Myth vs. Reality

by Annmarie Danico

MYTH: Depression is just a feeling; you can snap out of it if you try hard enough.

REALITY: Depression is a bonafide mental disorder, recognized by the DSM-V and psychologists around the globe. It is a feeling of deep hopelessness and sadness for more than two weeks.

MYTH: Depression only occurs when bad things happen.

REALITY: While a series of bad events happening one after another can affect depression, it can also be caused by genetics and heredity, or even a chemical imbalance in the brain.

MYTH: Post-partum depression is an excuse women use for being bad mothers.

REALITY: Post-partum depression occurs when all the hormones that are in the body during pregnancy become unbalanced, causing depression. It can occur up to a year after actually giving birth, and has symptoms such as intense worry about the baby, thoughts of suicide, and fears of harming the baby. It is a real disorder, and a serious one.

MYTH: There's nothing you can do to treat depression.

REALITY: Depression, like other, more tangible disorders, affects many people, and there are a lot of medications that can help to treat depression. Medications, however, are not the only course of treatment for depression. There are many types of therapy that can help too, altough they are normally used along with some type of medication.

MYTH: Antidepressants and lithium can help anybody with a mood disorder.

REALITY: While lithium and antidepressants do help many people, they don't work for everyone. In some people, certain antidepressants and medications can actually make their depression and/or mania worse. It is important for a doctor to tread carefully when putting a patient on a new type of medication for depression.

MYTH: There are no outward signs of depression.

REALITY: All disorders have symptoms. Depression is no exception. Some examples of symptoms of depression are:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or helplessness
  • A loss of interest in previously-enjoyed daily activities
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Self-loathing
  • Reckless behavior
  • Loss of energy
  • Anger/irritability
  • Appetite or weight changes

MYTH: Having mania is fun.

REALITY: Mania is fun in the moment. During manic episodes, those with manic-depression can spend thousands of dollars on clothes, cars, houses, anything that suits them. They lack a sense of fear, and so make very reckless, even self-harming decisions. Most of the time, when a person leaves a manic episode and transitions into a depressive one, they can sink further into depression because they see all the bad choices they made during their manic episode and how badly they've affected their lives. It further convinces them that there is no hope for them, making their depression worse.

MYTH: No one hallucinates while suffering from a mood disorder.

REALITY: Manic-depression has many symptoms, but one of those symptoms is hallucinations. Normally, these happen during manic episodes.

MYTH: Everyone who has bipolar disorder experiences the disorder in the same way.

REALITY: Everyone's brain is unique, and so is their experience with bipolar disorder. While the overall symptoms are usually the same, their effect on a person's brain can vary greatly.

MYTH: Only people suffering from depression are suicidal.

REALITY: While 15% of those with depression will attempt to commit suicide, they aren't the only demographic at risk for committing suicide. Teens are also at risk, and not all of them have or will have depression. There are many other reasons other than mental illness that someone may be suicidal.