Misconceptions about bipolar disorder explained

Portrayals of bipolar disorder seem to be cropping up everywhere—in the news, in movies, and on television. The November 2007 issue of the Harvard Health Letter dispels some myths and misunderstandings about this condition. Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose, and it often gets confused with other mental illnesses. Because mania is the hallmark of bipolar disorder, the depressive episodes sometimes get overlooked. The Harvard Health Letter notes that people with bipolar disorder typically spend much more time depressed than manic. In fact, years of depression may go by between manic episodes. The newsletter also reports that the manic episodes of the disease can come in a milder form, called hypomania, which can feel pleasant and imbue a person with exuberance, energy, and optimism. But hypomania may have negative consequences if that confidence leads to excess spending or promiscuity.
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