Bipolar Disorder Support Groups Can Spread Misinformation
Let me start by saying I'm not against bipolar disorder support groups. Actually, I recommend them to people and think they can be very helpful. That doesn't mean there aren't drawbacks, however. One of those drawbacks is the spreading of misinformation. If you participate in bipolar disorder support groups, it's something you absolutely want to watch out for.
What Are Bipolar Disorder Support Groups?
When I talk about bipolar disorder support groups, I mean groups of people with bipolar disorder that form to offer peer support. Typically, bipolar disorder support groups are not run by professionals. They are usually run by well-meaning people who see the benefits of support for themselves and others. Bipolar disorder support groups can be found in-person through organizations like the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) and online pretty much everywhere from Facebook to through organizations like the Depression and Bipolar Disorder Support Alliance (DBSA).
How Bipolar Disorder Support Groups Spread Misinformation
Popular bipolar disorder support groups may include thousands of people online. This means that once an idea gets disseminated into one of these groups, it can spread like wildfire. And once it spreads, it'll pop up in other bipolar disorder support groups as well, seemingly confirming the information from the initial group.
Sometimes, actual information can even turn into misinformation when, like a game of telephone, it gets passed around from group to group, getting slightly altered here and there to the point where it is no longer recognizable. No one intends any harm, but these things happen.
The Misinformation from Bipolar Disorder Support Groups
And let's be clear, the misinformation spread through bipolar disorder support groups can be very dangerous. If you're seeing incorrect information about treatments, that can actually harm you. If you're seeing antipsychiatry messages, that can actually harm you. If you're seeing people recommend crazy alternative nonsense, that can actually harm you. You need to keep this in mind any time you get a supposedly "fact-based" recommendation in a support group.
What You Should and Shouldn't Expect from a Bipolar Disorder Support Group
Check out this video for what you should and shouldn't expect out of a bipolar disorder support group.
Fighting Misinformation in Bipolar Disorder Support Groups
While these support groups can be beneficial to you and your mental health, you need to protect yourself from misinformation at the same time. That is why you should use these groups as sources of support and not to find facts. For example, if you want to know the side effects of a medication, look at the patient information handout for your medication -- every medication has it, and they're all online. This information is actually scientific as opposed to a random sampling of people who happen to be in your support group.
And if you do come across information in a bipolar disorder support group that affects your views or what you want from treatment, look it up at a trusted source. Verify the information at HealthyPlace, Mayo Clinic, etc. There are many reputable sites that will confirm any information you find. And if you can't verify it at a reputable site, it probably isn't real. Your doctor is another great resource in terms of debunking misinformation.
I know it's tempting to believe something because a peer says it, but remember, a peer may be a great support for you, but they are not a professional, and they don't have the kind of scientific information at their fingertips that a doctor would.
Tracy, N. (2021, June 15). Bipolar Disorder Support Groups Can Spread Misinformation, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, December 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2021/6/bipolar-disorder-support-groups-can-spread-misinformation