July 24, 2006



Extreme highs followed by extreme lows, years of misdiagnosis, stigma – things that are all too familiar to people living with bipolar disorder. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Plagued by a lack of awareness about signs and symptoms, people with bipolar disorder often spend years stymied by misdiagnosis. Bipolar disorder, a serious medical illness that causes extreme shifts in moods, energy and functioning, affects an estimated 10 million Americans, an alarming number of whom are misdiagnosed or simply left undiagnosed. In fact, it is estimated that seven out of ten people with bipolar disorder receive at least one misdiagnosis, and many wait years before an accurate diagnosis.

Young adults may be particularly at risk for misdiagnosis. Due in part to the early age of onset, the extreme mood shifts that are symptomatic of bipolar disorder may be thought of as “teenage irritability,” whereas manic stages may simply be thought of as elevated levels of excitement. In fact, 90 percent of people with bipolar disorder have been reported to experience onset before the age of 20.

Raising awareness of bipolar disorder is an important step towards promoting early detection and accurate diagnosis, which is why the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) created Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day. Scheduled for October 11, Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day is designed to educate about the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder to help ensure early diagnosis and treatment, as well as to help eliminate of the stigma that surrounds mental illness.



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