Burden of bipolar disorder: Creating “successful” treatment plans and combating stigma go hand-in-hand

By: The Mighty Staff

July 8, 2022

The Mighty recently conducted a survey of our bipolar community to look at how managing bipolar disorder can affect daily life. Findings demonstrate the particular impact bipolar can have on work, school, and social and family life. These extra burdens are often overlooked when assessing treatment effectiveness. 

52% of our bipolar community said one of the most difficult day-to-day challenges of managing their condition is the impact on their work or school performance -- driven by symptom severity affecting productivity, as well as time off required for appointments and other condition-related management. Worse, many stated an addition challenge of discrimination (or fear of discrimination) in the workplace. 

Further, 75% of our community said one of the most difficult day-to-day challenges was the impact on their personal relationships, including feeling isolated from or misunderstood by their loved ones. 

Both of these top challenges (day-to-day management and relationships) were tied to stigma and lack of awareness/understanding of bipolar disorder from their friends, family, and colleagues. Our community members rallied for a better understanding of bipolar disorder and its symptoms from their support network, including their healthcare team – 27% even struggled to find a doctor who specializes in bipolar disorder. 

Feelings of isolation, along with lack of awareness and support, negatively impacted treatment experiences, as many members rely on others to help make decisions about their treatment plan:

  • 91% receive help from their psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor
  • 41% receive help from their family doctor or general practitioner
  • 36% receive help from their partner or spouse
  • 25% receive help from their nurse practitioner or physician assistant
  • 23% receive help from their parents or guardians

However, even with support from their care team, patients often face many challenges in finding effective treatments to manage their condition and finding the right treatment approach can be a burdensome journey. 96% of our community have taken a prescription medication to manage their bipolar disorder. 76% have taken 10 or more prescription medications. 40% had questions about whether their current treatment was the “best” or “right” treatment for them, or had questions about how to find the right treatment plan. Of those who have taken at least one medication, 46% said one of the most difficult challenges was managing side effects. The top reported side effects include weight gain, tardive dyskinesia, and dry mouth. 

The more insight we can surface about the real-life challenges of bipolar patients, the more aligned treatments can be with the patients’ definition of “success.” Combined with more mental health awareness and education, we can eradicate the stigma associated with this challenging disease and provide treatments that improve patients lives, beyond just symptomatically.


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