50 percent of the British public cannot correctly identify Bipolar Disorder

09 October 2023

  • Despite more than a third (34 per cent) having direct experience with bipolar disorder, 50 per cent of the British public couldn’t correctly identify the condition  
  • Common symptoms of bipolar disorder can often feature depression, extreme lethargy, mania and over-activity
  • Almost a fifth (19 per cent) were unable to spot a single symptom of bipolar disorder whereas others mistook traits for different mental health conditions
  • Rethink Mental Illness are raising awareness of bipolar disorder and its symptoms ahead of this year’s World Bipolar Day (Friday, 30th March)


Bipolar Disorder affects around one in every 100 people in the UK and can manifest itself in numerous different ways. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that despite our improved understanding of mental health, 50 per cent couldn’t hone in on the signs that point to the condition. 

44 per cent correctly noted that living with bipolar disorder often results in heightened mood swings, but 32 per cent wrongly believed it led you to have two entirely separate personalities.

The new research from Rethink Mental Illness also revealed that 72 per cent were unaware that bipolar disorder could lead to the person affected saying things that were out of character, with a similar number (73 per cent) not knowing that the illness could lead to compulsive actions, such as spending excessive amounts of money on unaffordable items or putting yourself at risk of harm.

Almost a fifth (19 per cent) were unable to identify a single symptom from the list, rising to almost a third (30 per cent) in those aged over 55.

Slightly more worryingly, 36 per cent thought that bipolar was completely untreatable and a further 42 per cent did not know how to go about seeking advice for themselves or a loved one should they be worried about their mental health.

The lack of knowledge is despite the fact that over a third (34 per cent) of UK adults are directly impacted by bipolar disorder, including family members (12 per cent) and friends (13 per cent).

Ahead of this year’s World Bipolar Day (Friday, 30th March), Rethink Mental Illness are ensuring that the general public are aware of the signs to look out for when it comes to bipolar disorder and know where to find support, as well as to dispel common misconceptions about the condition.