Media and Bipolar Disorder

Written by: Alexia Teo (22-U1) , Vernice Tan (22-U1), Jovielle Bruto (22-A2), Naja Thorup Kristoffersen (22-A6)

Designed by: Alexia Teo (22-U1)


With the increasing focus on mental health and mental disorders, there has been a greater portrayal of mental disorders such as bipolar disorder (BPD) in media. From magazines, television shows, and even televised court trials, the world has an unprecedented peek into this disorder. With this greater attention, there has also been greater stigmatisation and misinformation regarding this disorder.

Before continuing with this article, you might want to check out our previous article on BPD to further your understanding. 

Public Perception of BPD

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration and difficulty carrying out daily tasks. Although most are familiar with the term, few are aware of the symptoms and the severe impact BPD has on a person living with it. It is a term often casually thrown around to describe a quick change in mood. This is mostly due to the public’s incorrect perception of BPD, largely due to a lack of understanding or inaccurate portrayal in the media we consume. 

For example, some people may think all individuals with BPD are crazy, unable to live fulfilling lives, violent or dangerous. In reality, BPD is treatable. Although it is certainly a challenge to live with, individuals diagnosed with BPD can still live happy and fulfilling lives. 

Portrayal of BPD in Media

Fatal Attraction is a thriller movie that, while praised for its engaging plot and high stakes, has only reinforced the negative stereotypes surrounding BPD, with the woman suffering from BPD portrayed as rabid and violent, stalking the main character.

These stereotypes are that their volatile and unpredictable nature makes them violent and dangerous. Naturally, when one hears of someone having BPD, their immediate reaction is likely to be shock and hesitancy towards asking more about it.

A good example of accurate portrayal of BPD in media is Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. She is presented as a character with BPD but is not portrayed as violent and manipulative like what stereotypes suggest. 

While such facets exist, it is important to have a nuanced understanding of the disorder, as media done inaccurately will only enforce these harmful stereotypes.

Demystifying BPD

Individuals diagnosed with BPD may swing between two extreme states of emotion — manic and depressive. Those with BPD may find themselves going through phases of high productivity or high disinterest towards work and thus affect their ability to have a full-time job. During manic episodes, they may also have difficulty sleeping and resting. On the extreme end, they may even have hallucinations. 

Luckily, there exists treatment for BPD, such as medication or therapy. Through this, many individuals with BPD have learnt how to not just live, but thrive with BPD. Thus, the reality for those with BPD is that they can enjoy the same experiences as we do and can live peacefully in society, which is a far cry from the unhinged maniac that certain media may portray.

What can we do?

If you have friends or family members struggling with BPD, here are a few steps you can take to help them improve and stabilise your relationship!

  1. Gain a deeper understanding of BPD 

If we want to support someone with BPD, we should first and foremost strive to understand them. By learning their triggers, such as separation, abandonment, and rejection, we can relate more to their struggles, thereby increasing our ability to support them. 

  1. Validate their feelings 

When one is in suffering, the last thing anyone wants to hear is that it’s “all in their head” or that their emotions are an overreaction. Instead, we should validate their experience as we do not have the ability to gauge their current state of mind. Thus, this would soothe their worries and help them focus their attention on how to improve their own lives. 

  1. Aid them in seeking professional help 

Educated professionals, who have accumulated a wealth of experience regarding disorders like BPD, are most capable of guiding those with BPD through their difficulties. Consequently, gaining access to professional help can significantly improve how those with BPD handle their instability, increasing their quality of life. 

  1. Look after your own health

In order to ensure we can continue to provide optimal support, we should also prioritise our own well-being by preventing burnout. Hence, this allows us to provide optimal help to them in the long run. 

In conclusion, when dealing with sensitive issues such as BPD, it is crucial to understand the entire situation and not be swayed by simply public perception. Moreover, we should be proactive in helping those around us who may struggle with BPD. 

Bibliography: 

Helping someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Mind. (2018, January). Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/borderline-personality-disorder-bpd/for-friends-and-family/