The mental health condition, formerly known as manic depression, affects a person's moods and causes them to experience periods of mania and periods of depression.
The time it takes for a person to switch between these states of feeling very low and lethargic to very high and overactive varies from person to person. But it's important to remember that bipolar disorder is not simply about having "mood swings".
Although medical experts are yet to discover a definitive cause of bipolar disorder, it is thought that several things can trigger the condition such as extreme stress or an overwhelming life-changing event. Genetic and chemical factors are also thought to have an influence.
To break down stigma that still surrounds the condition, here are six things people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder want you to know:
1. It's Not Like Being A ‘Jekyll And Hyde’ Character
In a blog on HuffPost UK Lifestyle, Sharon Sutton said she gets frustrated by this inaccurate cultural reference linking bipolar disorder to Robert Louis Stevenson's novel.
"I am not a Jekyll and Hyde character. It's not in my nature but sometimes bipolar disorder makes me present that way to people because that is what it does to me. This is not me as a person, this is bipolar," she wrote.
2. It's Not Our Choice
In an interview with HuffPost UK Young Voices, a young woman named Zoë said she did not want to give her surname as she was concerned it would affect her employment prospects.
She said that people do not understand that bipolar disorder is not a choice.
"You can't just 'snap out of it'. Some people don't really seem to understand how all-encompassing it can be to live with bipolar and think I should just 'get over' it," she said.
3. It Can Be A Good Thing
Despite the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder, being diagnosed with the condition is seen as a positive step by many sufferers.
In a blog on HuffPost Entertainment, writer Hazel Butler said: “When I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder in 2010 I was relieved.
"I'd been very ill for almost 15 years. Finally having an answer seemed like a gift from the gods."
4. Reactions We Receive Can Be Sexist
Writer Katie Higgins believes people judge her bipolar symptoms and manifestations differently to how they would judge a man’s.
"The ways in which my manic episodes present themselves- especially in regards to self-destructive behaviours such as bad casual sex and alcohol reliance - are not [seen as] symptoms of an illness, but instead reflections of me as a woman," she said.
"Women are not supposed to be promiscuous, or drink heavily. When I do these things I have failed as a woman, and society takes great pleasure in this, because nice women are good but bad women are better - because bad women are easier to vilify.
"Society has told me that I am a bad woman, that the manifestations of my illness are choices that I make. Society has told me that I deserve this."
5. Dating Can Be Difficult
Previously speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, Rebecca, who appeared on Channel 4 Show ‘First Dates’, said her condition had affected romantic relationships in the past.
"I carry a lot of guilt, I feel like my partners suffer more than me, I can be so nasty and unrecognisable,” she said.
"I say things that are so mean, I hate myself so much and I want them to hate me as much as I hate myself, so I do horrible things. I push them... I want a reaction.
"My last relationship ended very dramatically and it was before I was diagnosed, but looking back now I can see that it was a classic case example of bipolar."
6. We Are Not So Different To Everybody Else
"Everyone has good days and down days but for me they are more extreme,” Matt Streuli blogged on HuffPost UK Young Voices.
"We all know someone with some level of mental health issues, whether it is the hormones firing in all directions after giving birth, the grief of losing a loved one or even returning to 'normal' society from the horrors of war. Perhaps it is more normal than we all think.
"Perhaps we all slip into the mental illness side of the spectrum at some point in our lives."
MYTH: Bipolar disorder just means mood swings FACT: Bipolar disorder is an illness with severe mood swings. Often, bipolar can interfere with one’s daily functioning, and sometimes can even lead to suicide, according to Dr. Prakash Masand, a psychiatrist and president of Global Medical Education.
MYTH: Once you feel better you can stop taking your medication FACT: Almost all patients with psychiatric illness need maintenance treatment for a while, even if they start "feeling better." Masand says this is to prevent relapses and recurrences, similar to diabetes and heart disease patients.
MYTH: Psychiatric illness is a result of bad relationships FACT: All psychiatric illnesses have a genetic component and an environmental component, Masand says. A bad relationship, for example, is only one of several factors.
MYTH: Psychiatric illnesses are due to weak character or inadequate coping skills FACT: Psychiatric illnesses are medical illnesses with several origins like all other illnesses, Masand says. Just because you cry easily or can't cope with personal problems, it doesn't make you weak or more likely to be mentally ill.
MYTH: Depression is just sadness that will go away FACT: Depression is a serious medical illness with morbidity and mortality, Masand says. Not all people show obvious signs of being depressed either. While some seek medication or go to therapy to cope, Masand says others try exercise, yoga or meditation. On the flip side, if someone is often sad or emotional, it doesn't necessarily mean they are depressed.
MYTH: Once you have depression or bipolar disorder, you will never achieve your full potential or live a 'normal' life FACT: Some of the most successful people in various fields have had depression or bipolar disorder, including Isaac Newton, Beethoven, Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey, Masand says. People who go through a mental illness may also feel they can't ever get back to a "normal life." This is another myth. Someone with a mental illness can still function, go to work, raise a family or perform any other task.
MYTH: Suicide is not a big problem in our society FACT: You may not know someone who has committed suicide, but this doesn't mean it doesn't happen. In 2009, for example, suicide accounted for 3,890 deaths in Canada among both genders, and according to Statistics Canada, mental illness is the most important risk factor. In the U.S., Masand says suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2007.
MYTH: Treatment for psychiatric illness is a cop-out for weak people FACT: Treatment is necessary for psychiatric illnesses like it is for other medical illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, Masand says. This myth is also commonly believed because finding help or telling people close to you about your illnesses can also lead to shaming and embarrassment.
MYTH: All patients with schizophrenia are dangerous FACT: If you've ever seen schizophrenia or mental health portrayed in mainstream media, you might just think everyone who is mentally ill is "crazy." Only a small proportion of patients with schizophrenia can be violent and this is usually because they are untreated, Masand says.
MYTH: Talk therapy is just whining FACT: Several types of talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, can be just as effective as medication in treating depression and anxiety disorders.
MYTH: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a new way to explain bad behaviour FACT: ADHD is a psychiatric illness with a well-described constellation of symptoms and proven treatments. And while common symptoms of ADHD include difficulty paying attention or procrastination, people may also self-diagnose their children with ADHD because of bad behaviour, according to SheKnows.com