Being told you’re suffering from a mental health disorder can be difficult news to come to terms with, especially if it’s something potentially serious, like bipolar disorder. But actually, so-called bipolar denial is fairly common, as is the denial of other diagnoses, like schizophrenia and even severe depression.
Bipolar disorder and conditions like it are sometimes difficult to identify, especially in yourself. This can lead to rejecting a diagnosis or mistakenly believing you’ve been cured when, in fact, there’s no cure for many of these brain diseases.
In this piece, we’ll explore this mental health phenomenon, try to understand why it occurs, and discuss the reason why listening to experts is critical when it comes to getting the help you need.
Difficulty Recognizing Bipolar Disorder
Imagine you’ve just turned 18, or perhaps you’re in your early 20s. Maybe you just started college or a new career, bought your first home or got married. This is a time in your life where change is common and frequent.
But here’s a question — if your personality started to change, would you notice? Would the people around you?
This scenario isn’t unrealistic, as bipolar disorder often develops late in adolescence or in early adulthood. Since the symptoms often mirror other conditions, it can be hard to distinguish, so denial and the inability or unwillingness to identify changes in behavior as mental illness is understandable.
This is also the reason why BPD is commonly misdiagnosed as depression, ADHD and other mental health conditions.
What Is Bipolar Denial?
This difficulty distinguishing the signs of bipolar disorder from normal personality changes that happen during a busy time in a person’s life contributes to something called bipolar denial.
Even when told by a licensed professional that they may be suffering from bipolar disorder, a bipolar person may refuse treatment. This stems from the belief that their emotional condition is only temporary.
2 Types of Bipolar Disorder Denial
There are two types of bipolar denial that relate to the time period in which unwillingness to accept the diagnosis occurs.
Resisting the Initial Diagnosis
The first case is when a person is initially told about the disorder. They may have come to their own conclusions about why they feel a certain way and be unwilling to listen to a professional opinion if it differs from their preconceived ideas. In many cases, a person is experiencing a depressive episode — they feel listless, unmotivated and unhappy — so they seek help from a psychologist or primary care doctor.
The person may think they’re just suffering from depression. In a way, they’re right, but when depression is part of a larger fluctuation of symptoms, it may be due to bipolar disorder. However, they may deny this fact, and resist treatment, which can lead to serious consequences such as:
- An increased use of addictive substances
- Thoughts of or attempting suicide
- Poor performance at work or at school
- Struggles having functional relationships
- Issues with money or legal troubles
Believing They’re Cured
Bipolar disorder is marked by major changes in mood over time. A person with bipolar disorder may feel extremely energetic for a few weeks, then feel exhausted and restless for the next few. These changes in behavior and personality may also contribute to a fluctuating sense of self in terms of mental and emotional wellness.
For example, a person who had a major depressive episode and received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder may come out of that period and feel they no longer need their medication. Because manic episodes often bring on euphoria as one of their symptoms, a bipolar person may also stop their treatment because they like how they feel in this moment.
But while an uncontrolled manic episode may feel good for a spell, it still can have destructive outcomes. A manic bipolar person will often make decisions and take risks without a lot of thought, which can harm relationships and cause legal or financial trouble. Ultimately, many decisions made when in this heightened state can do more harm than good to a person’s life.
How to Get the Help You Need
Whether you’re trying to get treatment for a bipolar person in your life who doesn’t want help — maybe you’re dealing with a bipolar spouse in denial, for example — or you’re exhibiting signs of denial about your condition, there are some steps you can take to make sure you get the help you need when you need it.
Refusing treatment is never the right option when you have a diagnosed disorder, but it’s reasonable to have a healthy level of skepticism. Misdiagnoses aren’t uncommon, so if you feel a mental health professional is wrong about your condition, you may want to seek a second opinion.
Here are two things to remember:
The “Experts” Are Experts for a Reason
Whether you decide to get a second opinion about your condition or you’re considering whether to trust a diagnosis, remember that mental health experts are specially trained to identify bipolar disorder and similar conditions.
It’s okay to have one doctor’s opinion verified by another professional, but at the end of the day, you should leave the diagnosis to the experts and work with them to find a treatment plan that helps you function effectively.
You Can’t Cure Bipolar Disorder
One of the side effects of bipolar denial is stopping treatment. You might think “I feel better, so I must be cured.” But this is only an illusion. Either medication or therapy has helped lessen the symptoms of your condition — in which case, stopping will cause symptoms to become more severe — or you’ve hit a point where you’re feeling better in the course of your shifting moods.
In either case, it’s important to remember that bipolar disorder isn’t curable. You should never stop treatment completely without being advised to do so by a professional, and if you do, the symptoms of your disease will come back.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder at FHE Health
Once you know you or a loved one is suffering from bipolar disorder, the first thing to remember is that it isn’t your fault. These conditions are brought on by genetics or issues with your brain chemistry — factors that are out of your control.
Fortunately, conditions like bipolar disorder, clinical depression and schizophrenia can be controlled, allowing patients to live normal lives once they find the treatment that works for them. At FHE Health, we’re experts in mental health treatment and offer a wide range of options for you if your life has been affected by bipolar disorder.
If you or a loved one suspect you may be bipolar, avoid denial by getting the answers you’re looking for. Call FHE Health today.