11 Mental Health Disorders That Are 100% Misunderstood

4. Bipolar disorder

happy and sad two-faced expression If you have bipolar disorder, your mood can be all over the place. | iStock.com/twinsterphoto

Often confused with depression or schizophrenia, bipolar disorder is characterized by stark shifts in mood and energy. Those with the condition often experience periods of prolonged and profound depression that alternates with periods of excessively elevated or irritable mood. “Depressive symptoms may include depressed mood, shifts in mood states, decrease interest in activities, loss of energy, preoccupation with death or thoughts of suicide,” Mayra Mendez, Ph.D., licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed psychotherapist, and program coordinator for intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health services at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California, told us. “Manic symptoms, on the other hand, may include a sense of exaggerated sense of self, decrease need for sleep, excessive talking and racing thoughts, and difficulty sustaining focus.”

Because mainstream society as a whole doesn’t always consider bipolar disorder a valid condition, many people go undiagnosed for more than 10 years. It’s best for someone potentially dealing with this condition to seek psychiatric treatment from a professional who can prescribe mood stabilizers or antidepressants, Mogali says.