If you’ve just received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, it can be challenging to accept the diagnosis — let alone begin treatment.
Hearing that you have bipolar disorder is a life-changing moment, one that many people find it hard to accept. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling this way — coming to terms with a mental health diagnosis is hard for a number of reasons.
It’s hard because it may feel like your future will be different from what you imagined. It might feel like you won’t be able to overcome your symptoms, or that others might define you by your mental health condition.
Even though there are some barriers to acceptance, there are ways to see your diagnosis through a different lens. For instance, hearing that there’s no “cure” for bipolar disorder can be disheartening. But in reality, there are a number of treatments available to help you manage your symptoms and live a full life.
Once you’ve accepted bipolar disorder for what it is, you can start accepting treatment that will improve your quality of life and alleviate the challenges that come with the diagnosis.
There are several reasons why you might find it challenging to accept a bipolar disorder diagnosis.
Bipolar disorder is a stigmatized condition
Stigma surrounding mental health conditions still exists in the media, online, and via word of mouth. Many people with mental health conditions don’t seek help because they’re concerned about being treated differently — whether that’s at work or in their social lives.
But it’s not just stigma from others that creates challenges in accepting bipolar disorder.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may carry that stigma yourself. You could have internalized a certain prejudice against mental health conditions that makes it harder for you to come to terms with your diagnosis.
The recent news of your diagnosis might bring up thoughts like: “I’m dangerous. I’m incompetent. It’s my fault. Why try?”
This kind of internal monologue is often the result of self-imposed and societal stigma. To help you understand and change these unhelpful thoughts, it may help to read about someone’s experience going through something similar.
About 3 in 4 young adults and teens seeking information online about depression said they were looking for personal stories from people who went through what they did in the past.
The value of sharing stories isn’t exclusive to depression or being a teen. It can be incredibly comforting and inspiring at any age, particularly if you’re living with bipolar disorder.
Not sure where to start? You may want to check out one of these many blogs devoted to bipolar disorder.
Your diagnosis might affect your self-image
We often set expectations for ourselves and for our futures. A bipolar disorder diagnosis may feel like a shock or an obstacle in living the kind of life you imagined for yourself.
Though it may feel this way, it’s absolutely possible to live a full, happy, and fruitful life after you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It’s a myth that people with mental health conditions can’t live productive lives, have relationships, and work.
Treatment can feel daunting
Aside from the stigma, it may be difficult to accept a new routine and lifestyle that includes regular treatment for bipolar disorder.
Treatment isn’t one-size-fits-all, but it often involves a combo of medication and therapy.
After receiving a diagnosis, a mental health professional will be able to assess if you need therapy, the type, and how often that therapy should take place. Depending on their suggestion, this can be difficult to accept.
But seeking treatment — and sticking to your treatment plan — is one of the most effective ways to improve and maintain your mental well-being. Once you’re able to establish a routine, you’ll start to see the benefits of making self-care a priority every day.
Moving toward accepting your diagnosis is a process. It’s completely understandable to need time to adjust when learning how to manage bipolar disorder.
With that being said, accepting and treating your mental health condition is something that you’ll thank yourself for in the long run.
If this is hard for you to believe — or if you feel like there’s nothing you can do to manage your condition — consider listening to other people’s stories.
Even if you don’t know anyone with bipolar disorder personally, support systems are available to you. You can check out some support options on the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance website.
Finding the right support system is crucial in navigating bipolar disorder. Living well with bipolar disorder is absolutely possible with the right tools and approach.
Whether it’s accepting your diagnosis, telling people about your condition, or finding the right medication and dose that’s the biggest challenge for you, there’s always ways to address these challenges and move forward.
Often, just having more information can be enough to convince you to seek and stick with your treatment.
Learning more about how to manage mania, hypomania, and depression — all of which are common in some types of bipolar disorder — can have you feeling empowered to take action when these mood episodes arise.
Learning about depression triggers, and finding your own unique triggers, can help you notice them early and prevent or lessen the impact of depressive episodes.
It can also help to read up on self-help strategies for living with bipolar disorder. Taking up new habits — like keeping a mood diary, following a routine, and learning ways to manage stress — can improve your well-being and quality of life.
To accept a diagnosis, it can help to rule out other possibilities and make sure it wasn’t a misdiagnosis.
Some other possibilities to rule out are:
It can help to talk directly with your psychiatrist or other mental health professional about the differences between these mental health conditions. And if you’re not getting the support you need, you may want to seek a second opinion.
If you’ve been misdiagnosed with other mental health conditions that weren’t bipolar disorder in the past, it can also make it harder for you to accept this new diagnosis. Learning more about misdiagnoses can help get you on the right track. Also, note that it’s possible to have bipolar disorder and another mental health condition, too.
Whether you were misdiagnosed in the past or fear that you’re being misdiagnosed now, clearing the air and learning the differences between mental health conditions and symptoms can bring you some peace of mind.
Receiving a bipolar disorder diagnosis can be hard to accept for a variety of reasons. Your feelings about it and journey won’t be exactly the same as anyone else’s, so what’s next?
There are many things you can do to make this process — one that can be overwhelming, disappointing, or surprising — easier for you.
You can learn more and find support with these resources:
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides more information about bipolar disorder.
- You can use the Find a Psychiatrist database from the American Psychiatric Association to find a psychiatrist in your region.
- The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offers free online support groups and other information.
An important thing to remember is you’re not alone. Living a full and productive life with bipolar disorder is definitely an achievable goal — regardless of what makes you believe otherwise.
Once you’ve accepted your bipolar disorder diagnosis, a world of possibilities are open to you.