When it comes to bipolar disorder, many people face common stigmas due to a lack of understanding and negative behaviors perpetuated by the media. One of the most common stigmas surrounding bipolar disorder is that it makes people dangerous and more prone to violence.

In reality, individuals with bipolar disorder have a low risk of violence and aren’t a danger to those around them. There are a few cases where the threat of violence increases, but this is usually due to external factors. By understanding the realities surrounding violence and bipolar disorder, we can reduce stigma and boost empathy.

The best way to help people with bipolar depression is to research and understand the condition. While some psychiatric disorders may increase the risk of violent behavior, assessing all the risk factors is important before coming to an unfair conclusion. This guide reviews the most common stigmas and information you should know about those with bipolar disorder.

There’s a stigma with Bipolar Disorder. Let’s break it down…

If you are a man facing Bipolar disorder & want to seek treatment…

What’s the Stigma of Bipolar Disorder?

With any mental illness comes stigma, which is the unfair stereotyping of a group of people. The common stigmas people with bipolar disorder face include the following.

Violent Behavior

People with bipolar disorder often deal with family members and friends who believe they’re at greater risk of being violent. In some cases, people will begin to fear someone with bipolar depression upon learning about the diagnosis.


It’s a common belief that because someone suffers from mania and depression, they cannot make choices or change their mind frequently. Our feelings and ability to make or stick with choices aren’t always interlinked. People with bipolar depression don’t always have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Depression often manifests through a lack of desire to participate in social activities or perform daily tasks. Family members may try to claim that people with bipolar disorder are simply lazy and don’t recognize that severe mental illness can be debilitating.

Stigmas Perpetuated by Media

When portraying mental illness in movies and TV shows, the media looks for ways to exaggerate or sensationalize symptoms for better shock value. One of the best ways to do this is to portray individuals with mental health disorders as violent. For example, in the show Empire, Lucious’ mom is portrayed as a violent woman struggling with bipolar disorder. The portrayal is exaggerated, and this isn’t an isolated event of inaccurate portrayals of bipolar disorder perpetuating the stigma of violence.

The stigma of Aggressive Behavior

The stigma of Aggressive Behavior

Someone with bipolar spectrum disorder may have mood episodes. These episodes are generally manic or depressive, however. Rather than becoming violent, someone in a manic episode may make quick decisions, feel full of energy and have difficulty sleeping. They could also crash later and experience depression, losing the desire to participate in the world.

Due to these mood swings, people assume that people with bipolar spectrum disorders can experience irritability and aggression during mood episodes. The reality is that other factors contribute to whether someone is more likely to become violent than whether they have bipolar disorder specifically.

The Reality of Bipolar Disorder & Manic Symptoms

Over the years, several studies have been done to understand if mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, increases a person’s risk of being more violent.

According to one study published by World Psychiatry, mental disorders are often not the cause of violence. Instead, “the major determinants of violence continue to be socio-demographic and socioeconomic factors such as being young, male and of lower socioeconomic status.” The study also found that substance abuse is a significant risk factor for violence. Rather than individuals with bipolar disorder being more likely to be violent, they are more at risk of being a victim of violence themselves due to negative stereotypes.

When the general public learns this and becomes more educated on mental health disorders like bipolar disorder, negative stigmas are reduced, and those struggling can get the support they need.

Young man having coffee and smiling concept image for treating bipolar disorder, mood disorders and related disorders

What Role Does Childhood Trauma Play?

Whether patients with bipolar disorder can become violent depends significantly on their trauma and how they coped with it. Childhood trauma increases the risk of developing mood disorders such as bipolar depression, antisocial personality disorder and anxiety disorders. Someone who has survived childhood emotional abuse may suffer from one or more mental illnesses into adulthood.

Trauma impacts children’s cognitive functioning and increases the risk of self-harm, poor decision-making and addiction. Not every abused child will grow up to become a violent adult, and many cope with their trauma in entirely different ways.

What Do People Mistake Bipolar Disorder For?

Several personality disorders result in psychotic symptoms, antisocial behavior, altered cognitive function and regression from work and social activities. When diagnosing a severe mental illness, psychiatrists must evaluate patients’ histories, risk factors and environmental factors to come to an accurate conclusion. Bipolar patients may occasionally be misdiagnosed with the following DSM-5 psychiatric disorders:

Risk assessment for people with the above conditions include suicide risk, high risk of panic disorder, psychotic episodes and past aggressive behaviors. Most people diagnosed with bipolar illness have no history of violent crime.

Facing any of the stigmas we’ve outlined?!

Don’t go another day fighting Bipolar Disorder alone. Alta Loma is here to help you!

What Challenges Do Bipolar People Face?

Whether someone is diagnosed with bipolar disorder tied to childhood physical abuse or has no known explanation for their psychiatric disorder, everyone faces immediate challenges following their diagnosis. Family members and friends can be your greatest support or worst detractors when you’re mentally ill.

Overcoming the stigmas you face is only one part of the battle. You need to recognize when you’re having an episode and seek the appropriate help, and you might need to try several medications before finding one that balances your mood. People with bipolar disorders are also at an increased risk of drug or alcohol dependence because substance abuse can numb a person’s senses and feelings.

Ways We Can Better Support People With Bipolar Disorder

The best way to help people with affective mood disorders such as bipolar disorder is to educate yourself about the condition and pay attention to signs of suicidal behavior, comorbid substance abuse and acute and psychotic episodes. It’s important to understand that a person isn’t automatically violent simply because of a bipolar diagnosis. Your support and understanding will go a long way in helping them learn to live with their condition.

When researching bipolar II disorder, make sure you also seek information about related conditions that may accompany it.

How Alta Loma in Texas Can Address Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

How Alta Loma in Texas Can Address Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

The media creates many unfair depictions of people with mental illness due to a lack of research and understanding. Unfortunately, many people assume that what they see on television reflects reality because stereotypes surrounding bipolar disorder are rampant, especially concerning the link between the condition and violence. These stigmas are perpetuated further by media portrayals of bipolar disorder that are often exaggerated.

Alta Loma Transformational Services helps men struggling with bipolar disorder and substance abuse find healing one step at a time. Call us today to learn more and start your healing journey at (866) 457-3843.