The first entry for our Mental Health Channel was bipolar disorder(s), which used to be call manic depression. Bipolar disorder(s) are very treatable mental illnesses if affected persons comply with treatment requirements. This condition is due to abnormalities in brain chemistry, and in the structure and/or activity of certain brain circuits. They are usually marked by extreme changes in mood, energy and behavior. However, not all bipolar disorders are the same. They are known as bipolar because a person’s mood may (but does not always) alternate between signs and symptoms of mania and depression. This disorder affects more than 2 million U.S. adults annually, affecting men and women equally. It occurs among all ages, all racial and ethnic groups, and all social classes. Although bipolar disorders tend to run in families, to date no specific genetic defect associated with them has been detected.
Signs and symptoms of mania and depression in persons with bipolar disorders, which often include periods of mania and depression that have the following signs and symptoms:
Increased energy and restlessness
Decreased need for sleep
Abnormally elevated mood
Feelings of grandeur (greatness)
Persistent, sad or empty mood
Decreased energy and fatigue
Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
Loss of interest/pleasure in usual activities
Thoughts of death or suicide
Bipolar disorder and depression are different but closely related conditions. Together, they are called mood disorders. Adherence to therapy is key to controlling bipolar disorders, since there is no known cure to date. Oral lithium therapy is considered by many clinicians and researchers to be the single most effective long-term therapy.
Celebrities and Notables Who Have Either Had Bipolar Disorder or Depression
Several research studies of creative individuals have found that a striking number of persons studied (they were primarily accomplished artists, writers, and musicians), have had a bipolar disorder. In fact, most studies have found a prevalence of 30 to 50 percent. Many active and accomplished individuals have also had depression.
Editorial Note: The high correlation between persons who have had a bipolar disorder and creative persons has been noted by Health Power and others.
Our Table of persons who have had bipolar disorder or depression, or mood disorders, also included in our Mental Health Channel, lists many individuals who have made outstanding contributions to society. The list also highlights:
(a) the mistake of lumping all persons who have, or have had, any mental illness under one umbrella; and
(b) the likelihood of great waste to society that has occurred as a result of stigmatizing rather than embracing people who think “outside the box”. Their “listening to a different drummer” and for a significant number, making unusual achievements, often in the face of limited resources and support, suggests that greater consideration and support should be given to them, not for their personal reward, but because of the even greater contributions to society they might make as a result.
In Health Power’s conduct of research on creative persons who have experienced bipolar disorders and depression, we were struck by the scarcity of people of color and women who were publicly acknowledged to have experienced either condition. Thus, we have compiled a list that was more inclusive of racial and ethnic health minorities as well as women than any such list we have found in the literature.
Regarding people of color, the limited public disclosure of mental illness may reflect the depth of stigma about mental illness which exists in minority/multicultural communities. That stigma must be markedly reduced if not eliminated. Otherwise, isolation, self-doubt, and inadequate treatment as a result of the actions and reactions of others, are likely to be as disabling for many (if not moreso), than the mental illnesses themselves.