How is Bipolar Disorder Depicted in Pop Culture?

When we see a celebrity acting erratically over a significant period of time, the media is usually quick to assume that they are suffering from Bipolar disorder. Although it is only speculation, the negative portrayal of the disorder seeps into our everyday thinking, perpetuating the stigma of mental health.

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Bipolar Disorder Inaccurately Portrayed

Bipolar disorder is characterized by its extreme mood swings, where a person may experience polarizing episodes of intense high-energy mania to crippling levels of depression. Affecting over 1.5% of the Canadian population, it’s a widespread mental illness that is often unfairly and inaccurately portrayed in media.

Like most mental illnesses, the media tends to focus on the dramatic side of Bipolar disorder, ignoring management and treatment. This leaves those who suffer from the disease feeling lost or embarrassed by the misrepresentation. They see someone suffering from their illness on TV, but the way they are being portrayed is negative or inaccurate.


There have also been moments of sheer irresponsibility, like when the Sopranos showed Tony flushing his lithium pills (often used to treat Bipolar disorder) after the medication caused hallucinations. When a Bipolar viewer watches a character ‘overcome’ their medication or suffer extreme side effects for dramatic flair, it can cause confusion and shame. For viewers who don’t experience Bipolar disorder but may know someone who does, it can paint an inaccurate picture of what their loved one may be experiencing.

AP Stylebook

However, in recent years, the media has been taking steps to improve the portrayal of Bipolar disorder and mental illness as whole. The AP Stylebook was updated in 2013 to help journalists write about mental illness more accurately and with less stigma. Popular TV shows are beginning to provide humanizing and realistic plot arcs for Bipolar characters.

General Hospital

General Hospital, a long-running daytime soap opera, revealed in 2006 that their longtime character and mob boss, Sonny Corinthos, was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. The plot arc gave context for the character’s infamous mood swings, and since the reveal, the show has shed a realistic light on the challenges of Bipolar disorder.


Shameless, an American dramedy, has been often praised for its accurate and touching portrayal of Bipolar disorder. Ian, the third eldest child of the dysfunctional Gallagher family, is diagnosed with the disorder in a season four storyline. As the symptoms begin to appear, viewers are experiencing the confusion, fear, and shame with Ian. Diagnosed in his late teens, we watch his journey coming to terms and managing his new illness. He does suffer moments of relapse, where the symptoms are more intense due to stress - common for those experiencing Bipolar disorder. But through the support of his family and friends, he can hold a job and lead a high-functioning life.

Rookie Blue

Detective Marlo Cruz from Rookie Blue, a police drama, is a supporting character whose storyline revealed that she suffered from Bipolar disorder. She was able to manage her illness without it affecting her job for years. However, the disease came to light during a major plot arc where intense stress from a case forced her to reveal her disorder to the 15 Division. While the show may not have depicted the full extent of Bipolar symptoms and treatment options, Cruz’s character was viewed as an inspiration to many women experiencing Bipolar disorder.

These are just a few examples of how Bipolar disorder is portrayed in the media, ranging from inaccurate to realistic to inspiring. While the media does have a long way to go in providing accurate portrayals of Bipolar disorder, it is good to see the progress that has been made. Here’s to hoping that it continues!

Do you suffer from Bipolar disorder? Is it impeding on your ability to work? If so, it might be a good idea to file a claim for disability benefits. If you are or have been denied your claim, contact Share Lawyers, and we will put our experience to work for you.

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A note from our long term disability lawyers

Taking a medical leave from work is not an easy decision to make. Concerns about providing for yourself and your family and keeping your job may cause you to want to push through your pain, but this won’t make your problems go away. Stopping work is often the smartest decision for your long term health and well-being, and your disability benefits are there to provide you with financial support until you can return to work.

If you have made the tough decision to stop working and apply for your short term disability or long term disability benefits, you may feel overwhelmed by the process and have questions that your employer and your insurance company are not able or willing to answer. Share is There to see you through and answer your questions.

Our Disability law firm knows what you have been going through

We understand that things have not been easy for you over the last little while. Your health has been suffering, you are unable to work, and now your insurance company, who was supposed to be there in your time of need, has decided they will not pay your disability benefits or respect your disability claim. These benefits exist to provide you with the financial support you need so that you can focus on your health and rebuilding your life. It is unfortunate that your insurance company has not lived up to its promise. If your disability claim has been denied, we will fight to get you the benefits you are entitled to. Our disability lawyers have helped thousands of Canadians get their long term disability benefits over the past 35 years, and we can help you too.

Our experienced disability lawyers can fight back on your behalf

Share Lawyers believes that every client who is dealing with a disability claim deserves superior personal service. To achieve that goal, we have developed our team of experienced, compassionate, and caring long term disability lawyers, law clerks, and administrative staff to meet all of your needs. Our team of experienced long term disability, life insurance, employment, and critical illness insurance lawyers have made successful claims against many insurance companies, third-party administrators and employers.

If you are unable to work, your disability benefits should be there to provide you with the financial support you need. While your insurance company may be focused on finding ways to avoid paying your claim, our focus is on what is in your best interest. When Share Lawyers gets involved, you have an entire team of lawyers that are there to support you and to fight for what is yours.

Our disability claim lawyers fight for your disability insurance claim by relying on our many years of experience to apply the best strategic planning and approach in each case, using the latest technology available. Experience matters, and with Share Lawyers, you are in the best hands with 35 years of success on your side.

In this video, we explain the role of a long term disability lawyer and how we can support you when you have been denied your long term disability benefits.

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