Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bipolar disorder isn't real and other fairy tales

There's been a lot of awareness about bipolar disorder these last few days, what with Carrie Fisher's passing and all. With all that awareness there's been a slew of misinformation as well. Seeing as I am a fan of correct information being spread around, I'd like to dispel a few myths that are floating around at the moment.

Bipolar disorder isn't real.

I've seen it said that bipolar isn't a real disorder, instead, it's just a conglomeration of symptoms that cause a person distress. Now, last I checked, a conglomeration of symptoms that caused a person distress was usually considered a disease/disorder/condition. I understand the thought process here, that all bipolar disorder entails is some ups, downs, and mood changes, so why call those things bipolar disorder? I think it's useful to b able to categorize symptoms, and to have a name for what's going on. I know a lot of people don't like labels when it comes to mental illness, but personally, I prefer them. I'd much rather be able to tell a person a short blurb about my diagnosis versus an essay long version of describing words.

Bipolar disorder isn't caused by chemical imbalances

According to the Mayo Clinic "An imbalance in naturally occurring brain chemicals called neurotransmitters seems to play a significant role in bipolar disorder and other mood disorders." Yes, stressors, and ACE (adverse childhood events) can help trigger an episode in some people, but neurotransmitters have a critical role to play as well.

Bipolar disorder doesn't kill people

This argument is supposed off the thought 'bipolar disorder isn't real'. If it's not real, it can't kill someone. I saw an example that compared a headache to causation of head pain instead of the manifestation of head pain, and stated that bipolar disorder is no more the cause of a person's death than a headache is the cause of head pain. I disagree with this entirely. According to various studies, people with bipolar disorder are 15% more likely than the general population to kill themselves. To me, this says that bipolar disorder does, in fact, kill people. This isn't including the studies that have linked cardiovascular problems to patients with bipolar disorder as well. 

These are just a few of the myths that are floating around the word 'bipolar disorder'. What this shows me is that more education is needed of the general public, and possibly even people within the mental health field as well. It shows that we can't grow lax in our mission to fight stigma, and fight misinformation. I know this is an uphill battle, but I believe if we all stay committed to promoting only evidence backed science, we can help fight and win this battle. 

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