Vincent van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, and Carrie Fisher were notable artists in their respective fields who all had bipolar disorder, though it manifested in their lives in different ways. The disorder, characterized by mood swings, from high (manic) to low (depressed), affects 5.7 million adult Americans every year, yet misinformation abounds.
In Ted-ED’s latest video, “What is bipolar disorder?” Helen M. Farrell describes what being bipolar means, its root causes, and the treatments for the disorder.
Read More: Signs Of Bipolar Depression Explained
So, can you separate fact from myth when it comes to bipolar disorder?
BIPOLAR DISORDER AND DEPRESSION ARE THE SAME
False: There are many variations of bipolar disorder. For example, type 1 has extreme highs alongside the lows, while type 2 involves briefer, less extreme periods of elation interspersed with long periods of depression, according to Farrell. Unlike bipolar disorder, depression has no mania, meaning there is no state of seeming very happy, confident, energetic and productive. In bipolar disorder, people go through both low moods or depression and high moods where they experience increased energy, feelings of euphoria, insomnia, and impulsive behaviors like promiscuous sex.
PEOPLE WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER SHOULD NOT TAKE ANTIDEPRESSANTS
False : There’s a popular misconception that if someone with bipolar disorder is depressed, taking antidepressants could flip them into a mania. If people fall into a deep depression with bipolar disorder, they need the drugs. In a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers randomly assigned 366 patients with bipolar disorder to a treatment of mood stabilizer drugs and a placebo or mood stabilizer drugs and an antidepressant for up to 26 weeks. The findings revealed there are no differences in adverse effects, like a shift from depression to mania between the groups.
UNTREATED BIPOLAR DISORDER IS DANGEROUS AND MAY LEAD TO SUICIDE OR OTHER HIGH-RISK ACTIVITY
True: Bipolar disorder gets worse if left untreated. A delay in diagnosis and treatment can lead to personal, social, and financial problems that can make the patient and those around them more difficult to deal with. Untreated bipolar disorder is associated with substance use, abuse, and dependence, and can lead to a 10 to 15 percent lifetime risk of suicide.
YOU CAN MANAGE BIPOLAR SYMPTOMS
True: Doctors work with patients on a case-by-case basis to administer a combination of treatments and therapies that allows them to live to their fullest potential. People with bipolar disorder can benefit from even simpler changes, including regular exercise, good sleeping habits, and sobriety from drugs and alcohol. The acceptance and empathy of family and friends is crucial.