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How to Deal with the Stigma of Bipolar Disorder

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Dealing with stigma of bipolar disorder is a challenge that almost every person with bipolar disorder faces (What Is Stigma?). Whether you’re dealing with bipolar I or bipolar II, the stigma society has about serious mental illness can make that job harder. However, there are ways of dealing with bipolar stigma and not let it derail your recovery.

Dealing with Bipolar Stigma – What Is Stigma?

According to Dictionary.com, stigma is a noun defined as:

“A mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one's reputation.”

However, when stigma is talked about with regards to something like mental illness, what it really refers to is the perception of stigma by many in society about those with a mental illness. In other words, some people perceive those with bipolar disorder to be “stained” or “disgraceful”.

And while “stigma” is the common word used for the negative feelings some have against those with a mental illness, the word prejudice is, perhaps, more accurate. Dealing with bipolar disorder stigma is really dealing with the negative prejudgments people make against those with bipolar disorder.

Dealing with Bipolar and Self-Stigma

Some people with bipolar deal with self-stigma. Self-stigma is a feeling that one has about him or herself that he or she is somehow damaged or lessor because of the bipolar disorder. Self-stigma often occurs because of the mental health stigma in society. Essentially, people internalize the stigma that they see around them.

But you can fight self-stigma. You can feel good about yourself even though you have bipolar disorder.

According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), you can fight self-stigma by:

  • Focusing on your strengths and not your limitations
  • Knowing the facts about your biological illness and reminding yourself of them
  • Spending time with others who have mental illnesses
  • Discussing self-stigma feelings with those who understand such as a therapist or in a bipolar help group
  • Volunteering to help you feel good about yourself
  • Finding out what brings your joy and going after it
  • Sticking with a treatment that works for you

How to Deal with Being Bipolar in the Face of Stigma

What’s important to remember is that just because stigma against those with mental illness exists, it does not define you. As philosopher Dr. Wayne Dyer said:

“What other people think of me is none of my business.”

You can’t know what others are thinking of you and you can’t change yourself because of it.

You need to focus on dealing with your bipolar depression, mania, and anxieties in spite of any stigma you experience. What’s important is your wellness and not the unfair judgments others may make about you. Also, remember not everyone feels negatively about those with mental illness, and those are the people you need in your life.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2017, April 13). How to Deal with the Stigma of Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/self-help/bipolar-disorder/how-to-deal-with-the-stigma-of-bipolar-disorder

Last Updated: June 3, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD