Many mental health disorders are widely misunderstood, with incorrect or unclear symptoms attributed to them in the public imagination — and bipolar disorders are no exception. Bipolar disorders are not rare; a whopping 2.5 million Americans over the age of 18 are believed to be living with either bipolar I or bipolar II disorder, and that’s not including the ones who haven’t been diagnosed properly — a major issue, which is deeply tied to misinformation about symptoms. According to a survey conducted by the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, “69 percent of patients with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed initially and more than one-third remained misdiagnosed for 10 years or more.” This is more than just a frustrating mistake for sufferers — incorrectly treating a mental health disorder can have major and far-reaching consequences.
In most people’s minds, bipolar disorders are often characterized by rapidly ricocheting moods that go from deep misery to extraordinary elevated self-belief — but in reality, the experiences are far more complex. In fact, the experience of bipolar I disorder is quite different from that of bipolar II — and lack of awareness about that distinction can result in poor diagnoses, ineffective or harmful treatment, and confusion about one’s own mental health. Read on to find out more about why bipolar II disorder is frequently misdiagnosed as unipolar depression — and how to know if that kind of misdiagnosis may have happened to you.
Why Bipolar II Disorder Is So Often Misdiagnosed As Depression
First off, technically, people who suffer from bipolar disorders do struggle with a form of depression — or, at least, depressive episodes. People with bipolar disorder, across both types, experience similar periodic levels of low mood.
But the specifics of how low mood plays out in bipolar II sufferers is what can get the disorder mistaken for unipolar depression; while people with bipolar II disorder typically…