So, how do you dodge the negative effects of stigma?
1. Talk openly about your condition when appropriate. Hiding it only fosters shame and self-doubt. Mental illness, like chronic physical illness, is a disease.
2. Don’t go it alone. Seek professional help to manage the physical and emotional aspects of the disease. Remember, safe medicines and psychosocial treatments are highly effective.
3. Replace “I am bipolar” with “I have bipolar disease.” You are not your condition.
4. Join a support group and find a buddy.
Managing any chronic disease is tough enough without having to fend off people’s ignorance. So take a stand and make sure someone (doctors, counselors, support group members, family) is standing alongside you. You’ll help your buddy as he or she helps you; the reward of helping someone makes everyone younger and healthier.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.