How Bipolar Disorder is Portrayed in Film and TV

Bipolar disorder is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses. People use the term bipolar to refer to erratic weather or when someone gets angry. It’s critical to know that bipolar disorder is a mental health condition, and the term should not be used in an informal way. There are certain films and television shows that depict bipolar in an inaccurate way. There are other sources of media that show bipolar disorder in an accurate manner. Here are the various portrayals of bipolar disorder and how they influence us.


An inaccurate portrayal of bipolar disorder

One portrayal of bipolar disorder that got it entirely wrong was the movie Fatal Attraction. The character who has bipolar disorder is played by Glenn Close. The woman becomes obsessed with a married man and goes to extreme lengths to get his attention, including boiling a rabbit. The film depicts people with bipolar disorder as unstable and violent. Thirty years later, Close has since spoken out about how stigmatizing this movie is. Her sister suffers from schizophrenia, and Close has become a great mental health advocate. It’s refreshing to hear that Glenn Close understands how detrimental Fatal Attraction is for those who live with bipolar disorder. It isn’t helpful to the community to characterize those who have bipolar as being mentally unstable. In reality, people with bipolar disorder suffer from mood fluctuations that make them behave erratically, which isn’t the same as being violent or unsafe. The highs of mania can make a person euphoric, talkative, and feel unstoppable. On the other hand, the lows of depression make them unable to get out of bed. That doesn’t mean that a person with bipolar is aggressive or dangerous. That’s where Fatal Attraction got it wrong. Just because you have bipolar doesn’t automatically mean that you are a danger to yourself or others.


An accurate portrayal of bipolar disorder

In an episode of Modern Love, Anne Hathaway plays Lexi, A high-powered attorney who also struggles with bipolar disorder. At first, we see a charismatic, brilliant woman who is balancing work and relationships. Then, as the plot unfolds, Lexi struggles to maintain her job. She becomes manic and starts behaving unpredictably. Lexi hits on a random man at the grocery store and invites him to come over later to her apartment. As the day goes on, her mania crashes into depression, and when he shows up, she is barely able to get out of bed. He sees a different side of her, and it becomes the wake-up call that she needs to get help. Eventually, she confesses to her boss that she is bipolar and needs to get help. This show accurately depicts what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder. Lexi isn’t trying to hurt anybody with her behavior, but she is self-destructing. Those with bipolar disorder sometimes will sabotage themselves unknowingly. Their mood carries them in directions that they don’t predict. They can spend lots of money, be sexually promiscuous, and don’t know how to stop their behavior. This episode of Modern Love illustrates the chaos of bipolar disorder and how one woman comes to terms with her illness and gets help.


Mental illness is real – in the media and otherwise

When you watch actors portray those with mental illness, it’s essential to check in with individuals who have the same condition. That way, you can discover if it’s an accurate portrayal of someone with that mental health issue. Sometimes film and television do an excellent job of portraying those who have mental health conditions. Other times, the filmmakers portray things that are stigmatizing to the mental health community. If you are watching a film where you see somebody depicting your mental health condition, and it’s inaccurate, it can help to have a conversation with others about this piece of art. When you watch an actor accurately portray someone with a mental illness, that’s worth sharing as well. If you are struggling with any mental health concerns, therapy can help you. You can learn about a variety of mental health conditions by doing your own research. There are conditions that you might not know about, such as internet addiction (read more about it here. There’s no shame in having a mental health condition. The most important thing is to seek help from a therapist so that you can live your best life.

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