5 Misconceptions about bipolarity

Bipolarity is often presented as the disease of the century. By declaring themselves bipolar, some stars like Benoît Poelvoorde or Catherine Zeta-Jones have helped to break the taboo around this disease. If we talk a lot about bipolar disorder, do we really know what it is?

Lucien Fauvernier

"Go from laughter to tears": to be bipolar, is that it? Changing mood is the man's own. But an alternation between a period of euphoria and sadness that jeopardizes the balance of life must alert. Any bipolar disorder carries with it a situation of suffering more or less strong depending on the person. Being bipolar is not just a change of mood in the blink of an eye but a real pathology that prevents normal life: difficulty keeping a job, to build a relationship, multiplication of risky behavior ... When the period of euphoria and excitement passes, often follows a depressive episode. In its severe forms, this depression can push to commit the irreparable: 5% of bipolar deaths by suicide. Bipolarity is a mental illness that must be accompanied by care and not be trivialized, at the risk of putting it into perspective.

Christian Gay, psychiatrist, co-founder of "France depression" and author of Handbook of Psychoeducation - Bipolar Disorders (Dunod, 2013), gives the keys to break the myths about bipolarity.

Psychologies: "To be bipolar is to change mood for no reason"

Christian Gay: It's not so simple. Bipolar disorder is characterized primarily by the existence of episodes of manic excitement, which can alternate with depressive episodes. At the center of bipolar disorder, there is a state of excitement that differs from a simple episode of euphoria. The person will develop several disabling symptoms that last several days: insomnia, disinhibition, acceleration of thought with flight ideas, hypersociability, hypersexuality ... The bipolarity is a complex pathology whose shape varies according to the intensity and frequency of episodes of excitement-depression or the temperament of the person.

Psychologies: "We are all bipolar"

Christian Gay: The prevalence of these disorders is estimated at about 1 to 2% of the world population. The figures used in France are roughly the same when reference is made to the best defined forms (bipolar disorder I and II). They go up to 5% if we refer to all the bipolar disorders that include its attenuated forms or cyclothymia. This is a little more than for schizophrenia which, according to the latest figures from INSERM, about 1% of the French population but bipolarity is far from touching all of us.

Psychologies: "It is the disease of the century"

Christian Gay: This idea is the most common, but is totally false. It is a disease that has existed since the dawn of time, previously called manic depression, which affects all social strata, both men and women. It is neither "new" nor the disease of famous people or intelligent as we sometimes hear. Bipolarity is the result of neurobiological dysfunctions, independent of the will, whose causes are multiple and intricate. However, there is a genetic and psychological vulnerability in some people. In this case, the environment will play a role of triggering bipolar disorder: a mourning, a rupture, an episode of intense stress ...


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