17 negative stereotypes about bipolar disorder

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The most frequently used search terms that usher visitors to my blog are: bipolar disorder stereotypes, bipolar stereotypes, negative stereotypes of bipolar disorder, stereotypes about bipolar disorder, negative stereotypes of bipolar, stereotypes of bipolar disorder – and they occur every. single. day. I googled ‘bipolar stereotypes’ and lo and behold, my most visited post ranked first. It’s time to expand on that ole thing. Stereotypes breed stigma, which can have terrible (and in some cases even terminal) consequences. Everything gets an ism, dear reader, and the applicable one here is ableism.

“Ableism refers to attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities. People with disabilities are assumed to be less worthy of respect and consideration, less able to contribute and take part, and of less value than others. Ableism can be conscious or unconscious and is embedded in institutions, systems or the broader culture of a society. Although ableism can affect all people with disabilities, people with psychosocial disabilities experience unique forms of stereotyping.” Ontario Human Rights Commission

Unconscious ableism is a result of upbringing, education and society. It’s tempting to leap out, all guns blazing, whenever it emerges, but that’s almost always the wrong approach. When you (calmly, rationally) tell someone why a stereotype is wrong, you’ll get a negative, neutral or positive response, right? You’re not responsible for their reaction and once you’ve said your thing, you’ve done as much as you can do. Besides, stereotypes are global things.

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Bipolar is the latest cool trend.
They call it the cancer of psychiatric disorders, I’m not sure what’s so cool about that? Some asshole celeb ‘coming out’ as bipolar might make it seem cooool to their groupies, but nobody who actually has bipolar is impressed. If you need celebrity endorsement, pay attention to people like Stephen Fry and Carrie Fisher instead. Maybe people think it’s cool because of its tortured genius artist reputation? Hopefully that kind of thought is just an emo adolescent phase.

The medical profession invented bipolar so that they can diagnose more and more people with it and profit from it.
Ah no. More and more people get diagnosed with it, because the population increases and so, logically, do cases of bipolar; it’s incurable and so once you have it, you’re in those statistics for life (and with the genetic nature of the disorder, medical advances and extended lifespans, the stats drop even less); as society grows more sophisticated and life gets more accelerated, pressure on individuals increases and more people are likely to have their latent bipolar activated by the stress and trauma. It takes an average of a decade for adults to be diagnosed, so the perception of bipolar diagnoses falling from the sky like monsoon rains is laughable. As for profit, yes, there’s plenty of that in psychiatry and psychopharmacology, but that’s the way capitalism works.

But you don’t seem bipolar.
And you don’t seem like a psychiatrist.

Bipolar is all about the mood swings.
It used to be filed in a chapter of mood disorders in the DSM, but the latest update (DSM 5) has it in a chapter all of its own, namely ‘Bipolar and Related Disorders’, this is because while moods are major players, that isn’t the whole picture. For instance, one of the main aspect is cognitive. Bipolar is a cluster of varying symptoms, which have varying levels of various effects. See? It’s all very various. Educate yourself by reading this.

People with bipolar disorder have mood swings every five minutes.
People with ultradian cycling bipolar have several shifts in a day, but most bipolar sufferers experience them at a far slower rate. Some people even have years of, or years between episodes.

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But everyone has mood swings.
Indeed, but ours are not simple mood swings, they’re harmful episodes. People without bipolar, as well as people whose bipolar has been stabilised, experience moods that relate to what’s going on in their lives. People with active/untreated bipolar experience them as a result of the disorder regardless of life events, and at a far more serious level than ‘normal’ moods.

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Bipolar people are always either manic or depressed.
List all the moods you can think of – we get those too. Where specific bipolar episodes are concerned, there are more options, like mixed states and anxious distress (two of the specifiers listed in the DSM 5), not to mention (shudder) anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure in formerly pleasurable things.

Mania is fun.
Hypomania (mania lite) can be fun to a certain extent and even mania might feel good – for a while. You’re thinking of things like happiness and euphoria though, moods without negative results. Bipolar is a disorder and mania can feel beyond awful at the time, consist of uncomfortable features (agitation and rage, for example) and have terrible consequences. We all have horrible memories of those.

Bipolar people are crazy.
That’s lazy thinking by people who probably haven’t even defined ‘crazy’ for themselves. The most common misconception is that crazy means psychotic, and most people don’t know what that is. Psychosis is not the act of stabbing people to death in showers, for example. Not everyone with bipolar disorder experiences psychosis and those who do, would tell you that it’s often terrifying – something that needs treatment, not mockery.

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People with bipolar disorder just need to try harder, think positive, snap out of it…
Growing evidence of the genetic, biochemical and neurobiological components of bipolar would suggest that the most accurate response to that statement is, “don’t be bloody stupid”. Go try harder to think positive and snap out of a migraine or something.

“People… may win a particular battle, but they are incapable of winning the war. Furthermore, why should we have to spend all our time fighting?” I agree that just using self-discipline will not get you very far. You will expend a lot of energy and still end up struggling more than necessary. {source}

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Bipolar disorder can be cured. I wish. There’s no cure, there’s no recovery. There’s only the possibility of remission. The guarantees are nil, the palliative care is inadequate, the costs are high and a cure is the holiest of holy grails.

Bipolar people can’t sustain relationships.
Relationships are tricky for everyone and there’s no denying that bipolar brings its own set of challenges to the table. That doesn’t mean lasting relationships are impossible for people with bipolar, you wouldn’t even need to go further than WordPress to find lots of people in long relationships and marriages.

Bipolar people shouldn’t have kids.
Eugenics, much? Bipolar people worry more than you ever could, about the possibility of passing on their disorder – and actually the stats are low. Here’s a really good article about it all.

Bipolar people are irrational, unreliable.
During some episodes, it’s quite likely; many severe illnesses have that effect. Who gets to make that judgment call though? Unless you’re part of the person’s close support network, you can’t do it. The perception though, is that bipolar people are permanently irrational and unreliable and that’s far from the truth. By this stage in this post, you know that bipolar doesn’t mean speeding insane roller coaster.

Bipolar people are violent/dangerous.
As with other badly treated minorities, crime etc stats are higher than they are in the general population, but the statement as it stands is simply another ill thought out generalisation. Most people with bipolar disorder are neither violent nor dangerous.

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Bipolar is just an excuse for wild/bad behaviour.
It may very well be the reason for it actually, and reading almost any memoir by a person with bipolar will show you how that works. That doesn’t mean it’s a get out of jail free card, trust me on that.

I’m so moody/I did a test online, I think I’m bipolar.
The difference between personality traits and psychiatric disorders, is suffering. If your moods are making your life hell, see your doctor, who will assess you and refer you to a psychiatrist if necessary. This article gives a great overview of the diagnostic process.

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This video is so cool, I love it. The rrrripped dude with the lisp waffles charmingly and interjects pissed off grunts and growls into his list of stereotypes. I like him lots.

If we (society) could eliminate the myths, misconceptions, stereotypes and stigma around bipolar disorder, things would improve for everyone concerned. If society stopped assuming we’re imbeciles, marginalising and bullying us, we’d have a far better chance of getting diagnosed faster, treated better and less of us would wind up in the crime and suicide stats. We could spend less time and energy battling it all and more on managing it.

Further reading:

Twitter users use the word ‘bipolar’ wrongly and/or offensively all the damn time, the nasty little fuckwits.
Gender stereotypes and bipolar disorder. Unfortunately it uses the outdated gender binary system.
Stop the Stereotypes: Living Well with Bipolar Disorder. (webcast transcript) “Well Heather that’s a really great question.”
You Probably Don’t Have Bipolar Disorder (Or One Of These 7 Other Conditions)
10 things you should never say to somebody with bipolar disorder.
5 dangers of labels and stereotypes.
45 Truths People With Bipolar Disorder Wish Others Understood
8 Misconceptions about Mental Health and Mental Illness.
Crazy talk: The language of mental illness stigma.

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blahpolar

battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

71 thoughts on “17 negative stereotypes about bipolar disorder”

  1. That video is so funny. I like his grunts and yells. It made me smile. That comparison he made to having a period was a little weird. It is funny when guys think they know about that. His overall message was very good……”I’m not going to kill you…that’s not me” LOL So cute.

    I can’t understand why so many people think bipolar people are violent, dangerous and change moods every five minutes . Is it the media ? Yeah, must be.

    Ok, now I am doing that thing that my friend Tatiana laughs about “Annie when you ask me a question, I just wait, because a lot of time to answer it yourself a few seconds later and then tell me Thank You” She thinks this is really funny. I never noticed it before she pointed it out.

    Ok so, why am I talking here? Oh yeah, bipolar stereotypes. They ask questions and then answer them themselves? No, that is just me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol you always ramble on and then somewhere in there BAM you drop a gold nugget. They’re totally asking questions that they answer themselves. And I agree about men who preach about periods. Glad he made you chuckle, it was the most off the wall thing about stereotypes I could find.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. (You don’t seem Bipolar – and you don’t seem like a psychiatrist) I’m using that line from now on when people say that to me! Great post – reblogging.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I actually nicked that off an image I saw once, that said…

      You don’t seem bipolar
      And you don’t seem like a doctor, so we’re even

      I couldn’t find the image tho.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on Brighton Bipolar and commented:
    I guess we’ve all heard similar statements from those who don’t understand what having a Mental Illness can be like. No one likes to be stereotyped or misunderstood and this great post highlights people’s misconceptions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. you could replace the word bipolar with just about any other mental illness and it would pretty much apply. which kinda makes me a bit sad that society is this way so much of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember being in a store and two female employees were stocking shelves as I walked by. And one of them said, “Yeah, my sister is bipolar, we sleep with our doors locked, we’re afraid she’s gonna kill us.” This was followed by laughter and the girl elaborating further with,”No, really, my sister is bipolar and she scares the hell out of me.”

    Shit like that just makes me ball up my fists and i have to keep moving or I’m gonna go off on some spiel which is pointless. There’s no medication, treatment, or cure for ignorance and cruelty.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh my god! I haven’t even actually counted how many books I have bought in the last three weeks and then this morning, stumbling along on my way to the Gardens I found another store (I think it was an educational book/supply store – get thee behind me Long Street – I mean Satan!!!!) and I bought two more books. Non-fiction so I’m not even counting. Could this be manic impulse buying? Let’s hope not, I have about 24 hours flying time and eight time zones ahead of me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol you’re gonna be as happy as a pig in shit with that pile of books – photograph them all together, you know you want to #bookporn – autocorrect said bookworm, I’m impressed.

      Like

  7. Having known people who were diagnosed and as someone who works in mental health, the two I hear the most are “But everyone has mood swings” and “Mania is fun”. I find myself having to address those myths a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is an excellent post! I’m sharing it with my networks. Are you on twitter, by the way? I’m new to twitter and trying to get the hang of it but you are right, people seem to use the hashtag “bipolar” in all kinds of stupid, offensive ways. Any other hashtags that you know of that are more likely to lead to good stuff? Thank you for this post. –pk

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No idea sorry, I gave up all social networks except wp ages ago on the advice of my shrink. I know Kitt o’Malley is active on twitter, you should talk to her, or maybe someone else will see your comment and help out. Thanks for the commentpliment and the shares :)

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I love twitter for breaking news, it always has it before TV etc do, but it sends me towards mania, I get very feverishly busy on it lol. Also there was an article that said it could possibly trigger psychosis, I have no idea whether that’s true, but since I do experience psychosis, that gave me another reason to quit,

          Liked by 1 person

  9. There’s a term I use, love it to bits ‘Personality Glitches’
    Everyone has them, some worse than others and for me, fascinating when someone embraces their glitches and are open about them
    Give me a person that fills the standardised expectations of ‘normal’ and I go to sleep, boring to the power of ten, give me someone broken however (‘broken’ to me is not an insult, sorry if offence caused) and preferable with a sense of humour as pitch black as mine dips when depression rides high, most interesting and honest person in the world

    “The staff are the ones who no longer pretend to be normal
    The patients are the ones pretending to be normal, so they can get out
    And then stop pretending!!”

    Again, sorry if offence caused, I never did master the whole non anti-social gig!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment and nope, I’m not remotely offended, I’m an introvert :) Broken doesn’t bug me either, tho it will offend some. I get what you’re saying about personality glitches, personally I don’t want to see bipolar disorder as a part of my personality, for me it’s an illness, a disability – and I can live with that. I got diagnosed very late and always assumed that my fuckups (many and spectacular) were part of my personality and I hated that. Also, I wouldn’t want to medicate my personality, and there’s absolutely no doubt about the fact that I do need meds. As shocking as it was to me, my diagnosis was also a relief, because finally I could understand myself and my past so much better. That’s my own subjective take on it anyway. And I also agree about people who have gone through hell being more interesting (though if I had the choice I’d rather nuke the hell and be normal/stable). Black humour is great; I know I’ve hit the worst levels of depression when my sense of humour vanishes. And then again, one’s definition of normal is so subjective too. I like the lines you quoted, in the light of those – fuck normal, amirite? :D

      I like your comment, because it made me think.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Lots of good stuff here LS, especially,

    “But you don’t seem bipolar. And you don’t seem like a psychiatrist.”

    Interestingly enough, I recently read an article on better treatments for bipolar and it stated that medications for depression can actually make it worse but are often given to bipolar people anyway. Here’s the link, if you’re interested, http://www.wsj.com/articles/seeking-better-ways-to-treat-the-lows-of-bipolar-disorder-1436221964

    It’s behind a pay wall so if the link doesn’t give you full access you can try googling the title as this often provides a back door way to paid sites (I have no idea how…).

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you for posting this! I absolutely HATE when somebody says “I was so happy earlier now I’m depressed LOLOL I’m so bipolar” or “I cleaned my kitchen today I’m so OCD” NO YOU’RE NOT. I suffer daily with both of those disorders and they are debilitating!! Cleaning your kitchen like you’re supposed to doesn’t make you OCD. Being happy about something, then experiencing something that makes you depressed doesn’t make you bipolar.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. THIS is awesome. Yes yes yes and uh big fat YES.

    I love your wit and intelligence.

    They were all so awesome but I’m still chucking about….

    You don’t look Bipolar.
    And you don’t look like a psychiatrist.

    Hahahahababah

    Hey get this one…I came out to a person once and this person said ….and I quote

    “No, you don’t have Bipolar. Bipolar people are really weird.”

    Crickets

    what the freakmode?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ja dalej poutdzymrję swoją prognozę dla S&P, w tym tygodniu powinno nastąpić odbicie (około 20.11) i do końca roku L. Kurs dojdzie do okolicy szczytów, ale tam ten ruch się zakończy (styczeń) i później S przez kilka miesięcy.

    Like

  14. I’m sorry!!! I’m sorry!!!! LOL!!!Dude, he’s totally oblivious to what’s going on around him unless he has to do with getting in some girls pants! Oh god! Val would have ripped him another one for sure! I miss her meanness!!Yeah, she’s pretty co;0g#823loalthou&h…I can’t say anything because it’ll give the story away! LOL!! And you know I gotta have a multi-cultural hood!That’s just how I am! Oh my gawd!!! LMAO!!! Bwahahaha!!!! ♪Come on and pull my hair!!! Pull my haaaaiiiir!!!!♪ Oh god!!! You cracked me up! I was sitting in public when I read this and snorted soda!!

    Like

  15. yesBet the Police Chief is wishing he could have squashed that recent story about Sacramento having the lowest number of uniformed offers per ca8;&at#p230iIt would seem to me it’s City Manager Ray Kerridge that wishes he could’ve squashed that story.

    Like

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