What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder and chronic mental illness that was previously known as manic-depressive disorder. It is characterized by severe swings in mood, energy, and activity levels. While these changes are natural and happen to everyone, for individuals with bipolar disorder, these shifts are far more drastic. So much so that they impede their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks which can wreak havoc on personal, professional, and romantic relationships if left unchecked.
These episodes of mania, depression, or both at the same time, can be unpredictable, occurring sporadically (and some as infrequently as only a few times per year). When they do occur, individuals can find themselves in that state for up to weeks at a time. In some cases, there are psychotic symptoms as well where a person hears, feels, or sees things that aren’t real.
How Prevalent is Bipolar Disorder? (Statistics)
According to a recent report, it is believed that 46 million people worldwide are affected by bipolar disorder, about 1% of the global population. These numbers are very likely to be much higher, however, and are estimated to be closer to 7%. Why are the numbers so off? Diagnosing mental health disorders is challenging in and of itself and there is no singularly defined way to test for bipolar disorder. Additionally, it can occur on a spectrum and milder forms can be more difficult to properly detect.
Misdiagnoses (attributing the illness as something else) and underreporting are common with mental illness. Additionally, attitudes towards mental illness can vary by country and ethnicity and can affect whether a condition is properly diagnosed or even recognized as a mental illness at all.
- About 20% of the U.S. population reports having at least one depressive symptom a month; 4.4% experience bipolar disorder at some point (Source)
- Australia, Brazil, United Kingdom, and Sweden have the highest rates of the population with bipolar disorder
- 89.2% of adults with bipolar disorder had serious impairment, the highest rate of all mood disorders
- Breakdown by gender: 52% are female, 47% are male
- Women with bipolar disorder experience more depressive and “mixed” episodes than men
- The median age of onset (when bipolar disorder occurs) is 25, most occur between the ages of 20 and 40
- 90% of bipolar disorder cases happen before the age of 50; only 5% have an onset after 60 and 2.9% occurs in adolescents
How You Can Get Involved With World Bipolar Day
Everyone can participate in World Bipolar Day whether they have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or not. Talking about it not only creates awareness which could potentially help people with undiagnosed cases recognize their own symptoms, but it also reduces the stigma and allows those individuals to feel comfortable going to seek treatment for their mood disorder.
One of the easiest ways to get involved is to start a dialogue online. The official World Bipolar Day hashtags are #biploarstrong and #WorldBipolarDay. You can also download official social media graphics to share on your accounts and like and follow the dedicated World Bipolar Day page on Facebook.
Wear A Ribbon
Create opportunities to speak on the topic by wearing the black and white striped ribbon for bipolar disorder awareness (a green ribbon is sometimes worn too as it is the international ribbon for mental health awareness).
Impactful change can be something you do as an individual. A great way to support the World Bipolar Day mission is to simply learn how you can be supportive towards these individuals. This can be by:
- Showing patience when they enter a depressive or manic state
- Avoiding statements like “calm down” or “snap out of it
- Encouraging them to seek professional help
- Ensuring they continue with their treatment even when they’re feeling better
Promote & Share Bipolar Disorder Resources
A great way to be an ally is to help connect those in need with resources that can help. Nothing says “you’re not alone” as well as a support group. Organizations like DASA, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, have chapters all around the country that gives individuals with bipolar disorder an opportunity to share experiences, discuss coping skills, and more. Other organizations provide resources to help newly diagnosed bipolar individuals.
World Bipolar Day Can Save Lives
About half of individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder are left untreated in any given year. This is especially alarming considering that individuals are 15% more likely to attempt suicide, and 60% of individuals with a mental health disorder (including bipolar disorder) develop a substance use disorder. Depression (and severe depression) are closely related to this mood disorder. If undiagnosed, individuals often turn to self-medicating which can worsen feelings of depression and continue a harmful cycle of addiction. These are a few of the reasons why the lifespan expectancy of someone with bipolar disorder is reduced by 9.2 years.
Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or who are suspected to be) who also have a substance use disorder should undergo dual diagnosis treatment. This specialized form of addiction treatment uses a unique approach that takes into consideration how mental illness can influence, and often exacerbate, drug abuse. Learn more about whether dual diagnosis is right for you and what it entails.