World Bipolar Day: CBH CMO Dr. Charles Altman Shares 21 Things To Know About Bipolar Disorder

Published on March 30, 2024

Bipolar Disorder has become a topic of growing public discussion in recent years, from portrayals on the big screen and national media coverage to our daily discourse with family and friends. Despite this increase in awareness, there are still pervasive misconceptions about being “bipolar” that run far afield from reality.

In recognition of World Bipolar Day on March 30, Charles Altman, M.D., MBA, Chief Medical Officer at CBH, shares a list of 21 important facts about Bipolar Disorder to help reduce stigma and shed light on this common yet misunderstood condition.

  1. Bipolar Disorder is not a personality type or character flaw; it is a bona fide mental health condition classified as a chronic cycling mood disorder.
  2. Those with Bipolar Disorder experience periods of depression, periods of feeling OK, and occasional periods of feeling “manic” or “hypomanic.” This may be described as experiencing “mood swings,” but this is an oversimplification.
  3. Usually, periods of depression last much longer than periods of feeling manic. Sometimes, both depression and mania are experienced at the same time, which is called a mixed episode.
  4. Feeling manic does not equate to feeling happy.
  5. The manic state can include racing thoughts, irritability, excessive speech (difficult to interrupt), hyperactivity, decreased desire for sleep, and excessive risk-taking (impaired judgment). This can lead to devastating consequences such as falling into debt, cheating on partners, losing jobs, driving at high speeds, causing accidents, and/or otherwise breaking the law.
  6. When one is in a manic state, they may experience hallucinations or delusions (unusual false beliefs such as thinking they have special powers).
  7. Being in a hypomanic state is less extreme than being in a manic state but shares similar symptoms to a lesser degree and duration.4
  8. Bipolar Disorder is usually classified as Bipolar I (including manic and depressive episodes) and Bipolar II (including hypomanic and depressive episodes).
  9. Bipolar Disorder often runs in families (up to 90% of the time).
  10. Bipolar Disorder usually starts with depression, often during adolescence.
  11. Bipolar Disorder may take a decade or more to be properly diagnosed as it is often mistaken for major depressive disorder, even by primary care practitioners.1
  12. Bipolar Disorder is not a rare condition, as it affects approximately 2% of people in the U.S.1,2,3,4
  13. Antidepressants can make Bipolar Disorder worse, leading to higher “highs,” lower “lows,” and more frequent cycling of moods.
  14. Bipolar Disorder is often accompanied by substance use disorders (self-medicating ups and downs in mood).1
  15. Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder can look a lot like ADHD, anxiety, or drug intoxication.
  16. Bipolar Disorder has a relatively high risk of suicide (up to 7%).1
  17. Individuals with Bipolar Disorder have twice the risk of death due to all causes.1
  18. Mood stabilizers (including lithium and anti-seizure medications) are the mainstay of treatment for Bipolar Disorder.
  19. The goals of treatment include reducing the frequency and severity of both depressive and manic phases of illness and reducing relapses from wellness.
  20. It is very important for those with Bipolar Disorder to stay on maintenance treatment, even when they feel well.
  21. Not sticking with prescribed medication (called nonadherence) is a major reason for relapse in individuals with Bipolar Disorder.
  1. Carvalho A, Firth J, and Vieta E.  Bipolar Disorder.  NEJM, 383;1, July 2, 2020.
  2. Jain A and Mitra P.  Bipolar Disorder. Updated Feb. 20, 2023.
  3. DSM-5-TR.  American Psychiatric Association, 2022.
  4. Black D and Andreasen N.  Intro. Textbook of Psychiatry, 7th ed.  American Psychiatric Association Publishing, 2021.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, CBH’s Provider Network is here to help you get the treatment services you need. To find a provider near you, visit CBH’s Provider Directory or contact CBH Member Services at 888-545-2600.

The information provided in this blog post is for general educational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice or treatment for a medical condition. Please consult your healthcare provider about any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.