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.