Bipolar Disorder and the Creative Genius
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a psychopathology that affects approximately 1% of the population. (1) Unlike unipolar disorder, also known as major affective disorder or depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by vacillating between periods of elation (either mania or hypomania) and depression. (1, 2) Bipolar disorder is also not an illness that remedies itself over time; people affected with manic depression are manic-depressives for their entire lives. (2, 3) For this reason, researchers have been struggling to, first, more quickly diagnose the onset of bipolar disorder in a patient and, second, to more effectively treat it. (4) As more and more studies have been performed on this disease, the peculiar occurrence between extreme creativity and manic depression have been uncovered, leaving scientists to deal with yet another puzzling aspect of the psychopathology. (5)
Patients with bipolar disorder swing between major depressive, mixed, hypomanic, and manic episodes. (1-9) A major depressive episode is when the patient has either a depressed mood or a loss of interest/pleasure in normal activities for a minimum of two weeks. Specifically, the patient should have (mostly): depressed mood for most of the day, nearly every day; diminished interest or pleasure in activities; weight loss or gain (a difference of 5% either way in the period of a month); insomnia or hypersomnia; psychomotor agitation or retardation; fatigue or loss of energy; diminished ability to think or concentrate; feelings of worthlessness; recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation or attempt. It is important to note that, except for the last symptom, all of these symptoms must be present nearly every day. (2, 7) In addition to major depressive episodes, patients with manic depression also feel periods of hypomania. A hypomanic episode must be a period of at least four days, during which the affected person feels elevated or irritated--a marked difference from the depressed period. (2, 7) The symptoms are: inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, more talkative than usual, flight of ideas or racing thoughts, distractibility, psychomotor agitation or an increase in goal-directed activity, excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that may have negative consequences. (2, 7) This change in mood is observable by others and medications, substance abuse, or another medical condition does not cause the symptoms. (7)
In contrast to hypomania is mania, which is a more extreme case of hypomania. A manic episode is a period of an elevated or irritable mood for at least one week. (2, 7) The symptoms must cause problems in daily functioning and cannot be caused by a medical condition or drugs. (7) Manic symptoms are: inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, more talkative than usual, flight of ideas or racing thoughts, attention easily drawn to unimportant...