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    8 Myths About Bipolar Disorder

    Bipolar disorder is on the rise, yet myths persist. Experts separate the facts from the fiction.

    Bipolar Myth No. 4: When they're in the manic phase, people with bipolar disorder are often very happy. continued...

    A person in a manic phase may go on spending sprees, use poor judgment, abuse drugs or alcohol, and have difficulty concentrating. Sexual drive can be increased and behavior can be "off" or out of character for what is normal for them.

    It's crucial, Smith says, to treat a manic phase (typically with mood-stabilizing drugs). If untreated, it can progress from an elevated mood to euphoria to extreme disorganization and other common signs of mania -- lack of sleep, increased energy, and disorganized behavior that interferes with relationships, he says.

    "I don't think people look forward to manic episodes," Smith says. "When you are not manic, you can look back and see how disruptive your life became."

    Smith advises bipolar disorder patients to know their early signs of a manic or depressive episode so they can get additional treatment promptly.

    Bipolar Myth No. 5: There is a bipolar test.

    Not true. In early 2008, an at-home bipolar test, sold over the Internet, made headlines. But the test only tells users whether their genetic makeup puts them at higher risk of having or getting bipolar disorder.

    The bipolar test evaluates saliva samples for two mutations in a gene called GRK3, associated with the disorder. But it can't tell users for sure.

    Today, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder depends on a doctor taking a careful patient history, asking about symptoms over time. A family history of the disorder increases a person's chances of getting it.

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