5 Myths and Facts About Bipolar Disorder

Jul 8, 2016

5 Myths and Facts About Bipolar Disorder

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Due in part to the awareness spread from diagnosis, there has been an increase in the number of people who are familiar with the basics of bipolar disorder. However, myths on the condition still commonly exist amongst patients and the public. Below we have included 5 common topics of misconception surrounding this disorder.

Myth or Fact: Understanding Bipolar Disorder

1. Bipolar disorder is a combination of mental health issues. 

Fact. Someone who suffers from bipolar disorder has mood swings connected to 3 of these following categories: mania, depression, and mixed state. Mania is categorized by a heightened state of emotions. Depression is a state of sadness. A mixed state is a combination of the two, and possibly the most difficult to cope with.

2. People with bipolar disorder are always crazy or moody.

Myth. People with the disorder experience episodes of highs and lows for weeks or months but often these episodes are separated by a time (sometimes long, sometimes short) of mental stability.

Often, you can see signs of an episode coming on and if you are cognizant of the individual’s emotional triggers you may be able to better cope with mood swing episodes.

Episodes of depression are often easier to catch than signs of mania. If the individual is experiencing an episode of mania, they may display signs (heightened view of self, restlessness, racing speech and thoughts, agitation, short attention span, poor judgment) for a week or more.

3. Mania or Bipolar Disorder symptoms burn out as a person enters old age. 

Myth. Though at an older age cognitive slowing is a common symptom of bipolar disorder, age has very little to do with the symptoms list experienced by someone who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

In fact, an episode of mania for a geriatric patient can result in stronger effects of delusion and cognitive problems that would require them to receive more care. Episodes may require them to give up some independence so they don’t make ill-advised decisions. The disorder can cause them to believe untrue things with such conviction that the choices they make could put their health at risk. Some things, such as believing that Elvis wishes to marry them can be much less threatening than believing that their medicine is making them sleep, so they stop taking it.  

4. Accepting further mental and physical care can help restore independence.

Fact. Getting the care they need may increase their independence by helping them recover and develop skills to continue living a normal life.

No, being bipolar is not a choice; it is a mental illness, like any health condition. Going without care can result in deterioration into even worse symptoms from the mental disorder.

Recovery can be achieved through educating oneself, seeking medical help and knowledge, medication, and adoption of a lifestyle that will aid recovery (less stress, more sleep, exercise).

5. Mania is characterized by crazy behavior and being super-happy.

Myth. Seniors often experience mania differently. Instead of feeling on top of the world, they often feel agitation, irritability, confusion, and/or disorientation.

More often than not, manic episodes in geriatric patients experience a state of irritable depression that can be very debilitating to cognitive function, interpersonal relationships, and judgment. The manic episodes can cause quite a bit of friction between the senior and their loved ones or caregivers.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What treatments are available for LOBD?

Some of the most commonly prescribed medications for bipolar disorder are lithium carbonate and valproic acid (Depakote). Antidepressants may also be prescribed, however, their usage is not without risk. Again, since the causes of LOBD are still somewhat unknown, there have been debates within the medical community as to which method of treatment is the most effective. 

Electroconvulsive Therapy: This treatment is sometimes used for patients who are severely depressed or manic, and who do not respond well to medications. This can be a quick and efficient way to help people who are at a high risk for attempting suicide. The procedure involves inducing a grand mal seizure lasting less than one minute by the use of electrodes placed on the scalp. 

Although the method lost public credibility following distorted and negative portrayals in 1960’s media coverage, modern procedures have been shown as both safe and effective.

Vagus or Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS): Involves a small device implanted into the vagus nerve in order to mitigate depressive symptoms.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): A small electromagnetic coil treats the symptoms of depression by stimulating nerves in the mood centers of the brain.

Light Therapy: For people suffering from bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder, sitting under a special light box capable of emitting full-spectrum light can help to treat depressive symptoms associated with the changes in weather.

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What are some of the causes of late-onset bipolar disorder?

The causes of late-onset bipolar disorder are not known, however, researchers believe that a number of factors may contribute to the disorder. Some of these include genetics, neurological or cognitive disorders, and environmental factors.

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