There are a lot of stigmas that surround bipolar disorder and other mental health diagnoses. This stigma paves the way for discrimination, self-doubt, secrecy, and treatment avoidance. It’s hard to imagine how thoughts and assumptions could hold so much power over the action of others. Through educational conversations and a little compassion, we can change the way the world looks at mental health.
Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs and lows. Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder encompasses three main episode types. These are mania, hypomania, and major depressive. The highs of mania or hypomania can feel euphoric, more energetic, or unusually irritable.
Mania and hypomania episodes share the same symptoms, although mania is more severe. These include having three or more of the following: euphoria, increased energy, racing thoughts, and decreased need for sleep. A major depressive episode includes five or more the following symptoms: thoughts of suicide, depressed mood, significant loss of interest in activities, insomnia, sleeping too much, fatigue, or feelings of worthlessness.
There are several types of bipolar disorder and other disorders that are related.
- Bipolar I– Experienced at least one manic episode that may be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. For some, mania may cause a break from reality (psychosis).
- Bipolar II– Experienced at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but you’ve never had a manic episode.
- Cyclothymic– You’ve had at least two years — or one year in childhood and adolescence — of many periods of hypomania symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms (though less severe than major depression).
- Others– When bipolar or other related disorder is brought on by drugs, alcohol, medication, or medical condition (Cushing’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke).
Stopping the Stigma Starts with YOU
Supergirl and Grey’s Anatomy actress, Chyler Leigh, recently went public about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She also announced her collaboration with the Be Vocal: Speak Up About Mental Health initiative. She hopes that by sharing what she went through and learned, others will be inspired to speak up and get the support needed. Leigh credits open conversations in her family have helped each other deal with their own neurological disorders and not focus on their diagnosis. She teaches her kids to view their conditions as superpowers versus deficits that will dictate the rest of their lives.
Mental illness is not anyone’s fault. It’s time we stopped allowing the burden of stigma to be carried by those affected. How will YOU help end the stigma?
Evolution Research Group is helping stop the mental health stigma by conducting clinical research studies that explore new options for those diagnosed. To learn more about getting involved in upcoming studies, click here.