Debunking 5 Myths About Bipolar Disorder

Written by Nadia Norcia Radovini, communications advisor at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

March 30 is World Bipolar Day and we’ve set out to address some myths about the condition.

In the first days of spring, we are eager to store away our shovels and look forward to warmer weather.

“Most people will notice a slightly improved mood when the days get longer in the spring, and, unfortunately a slight dip in happiness when cold weather hits in late fall,” says Dr. Mark Sinyor, a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook. “But for people with mood disorders, particularly bipolar disorder, these weather changes can sometimes have a much bigger impact.”

We called upon Dr. Sinyor and his colleagues, who specialize in treating bipolar disorder at Sunnybrook, to further describe this seasonal effect, and also to help more generally demystify this psychiatric condition for us.

“Sunlight works as an antidepressant and, when light levels rapidly drop in the autumn months, people with bipolar disorder can become depressed,” explains Dr. Ayal Schaffer, head of the <a href=”http://sunnybrook.ca/content/?page=bsp-moodanxiety-home” target=”_hplink”>Mood &amp; Anxiety Disorders Program</a> and Deputy Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Sunnybrook. “On the other hand, when ‘spring forward’ happens and the amount of sunlight increases, people with bipolar disorder can have the opposite reaction and experience mania, which is a state of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, arousal and/or energy levels that can have an effect on their functioning and relationships with others.”

These seasonal fluctuations are more common the farther away you are from the equator, adds Sinyor, probably because weather patterns change the most at the poles and are much more consistent year-round at the equator.

Over the last 20 years, substantial progress has been made in understanding this psychiatric condition but there remains some confusion and mystery around it; the doctors help us address some of the more common myths: continue article

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