Bipolar Mania – The Good and the Bad

Nothing involving mania is ever a good thing, you might think. However, many people love Wrestling mania. Then there’s low price/sale mania. Now, you’re talking. But very few would view bipolar mania as a good thing; except perhaps for those that have experienced it.

The word mania comes from the Greek and means to rage. Most people think mania simply means madness. Bipolar disorder I and II both come with episodes of bipolar mania. It’s more common than you might think, affecting approximately one in a hundred people. While few people relish being sick, many view their bipolar diagnosis as a construct of their personality. With many perceived benefits, they would not want to be without their bipolar mania.

It’s not dissimilar to a proportion of the deaf community who are quite okay with what others consider to be a disability. As long as they can communicate, many deaf people are okay to be in silence. The same is true of some bipolar sufferers who come to relish their manic episodes. It’s at these times that many people with bipolar feel they are at their most creative.

Historical Greats with Bipolar Mania Disorder

In May of 1889, a troubled artist, not long after cutting off his ear, entered the mental institution, Saint Remy. He began painting, which he described as ‘the lightning conductor for my illness,’ or a way to keep his insanity at bay. He painted at the rate of one work every three days. The first of 130 works he painted was Irises, the world’s most expensive painting to date. Vincent’s health varied while at Saint Remy, and many of his works depict his illness. Van Gogh likely suffered a range of disorders, including bipolar mania. If it were not for his illness, it’s unlikely these works of brilliance would exist today.

Irises by Van Gogh bipolar mania
Irises by Van Gogh

It’s thought that Mozart, too, had bipolar disorder and had periods of hypomania. Details of his life lead many to believe he exhibited many symptoms of bipolar behavior. Mozart composed over 600 works up until his untimely death at the age of 35. His mix of genius and creativity means he is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time.

Modern Era Greats with Bipolar Mania Disorder

Bipolar mania is often associated with great creativity. You’d be surprised at the number of artists, writers, singers, and actors that had or do have bipolar disorders. Actors including Gone with the Wind’s Vivian Leigh, Star Wars actress, and author Carrie Fisher, writers Ernest Hemingway and J.K Rowling, singers Frank Sinatra, Jimmi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, and Maria Carey, comedians Robin Williams and Russell Brand, the list goes on.

For many historical greats, like Vincent and Mozart, there was no treatment. And there was no choice. But for many that suffer today, medication works very well to create a balance and curtail manic highs and terrifyingly dark lows. However, many bipolar disorder people have played Russian roulette with their bipolar spectrum to experience bipolar mania and creativity. The price they know they must pay is bipolar depression and lows. For many, this painful gamble is a part of their lives. And for many, the painful gamble is the cause of their death.

Of the infamous dead at 27 club, every single member is thought to have had bipolar.

The-27-Club-bipolar-mania
The 27 Club painted from Left to right, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. [Source]

More recently, 2017 saw the loss of bipolar sufferers, Chris Cornell and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. So many of Linkin Park’s lyrics are a beautiful and poignant spotlight to Chester’s darkness and suffering. His depression, regular hopelessness, and addictions were no real secret. Chester had attempted suicide before. So, after the suicide of best friend and fellow bipolar sufferer Chris Cornell, it’s a shame that warning signs were not acted upon.

While we can marvel at the songwriting and singing of Chris Cornell, and Chester Bennington’s, it’s their families that are paying an unbearable price right now.

Global deaths from suicide represent a statistic of 1.4 % of the population. However, bipolar mania sufferers are particularly susceptible to suicide. 25-60% of bipolar sufferers attempt suicide, and 4-19% complete their attempts. That’s a grim statistic whichever way you look at it. It’s, therefore, best most would argue to sacrifice the creativity of bipolar mania to stay alive.

If you or a loved one needs help, these are symptoms to look out for:

Manic symptoms

A period of manic behavior is a dangerous time, which can often require hospitalization.

Manic symptoms include:

  • A decreased need for sleep
  • Extreme restlessness or impulsiveness
  • Feeling extremely happy for extended periods
  • Easily distracted
  • Grandiosity
  • Talking rapidly with racing thoughts
  • Risky behavior such as gambling, promiscuity, and spending sprees

Many parts of mania, as we have discussed, are pleasurable to experience. It’s therefore easy to empathize that those experiencing hypomania are resistant to intervention.

Bipolar behavior

Another dangerous time in the complicated life of someone with bipolar is the depression they experience. More than ever, intervention may be needed to prevent suicide. 

Look out for these key signs:

  • Severe fatigue
  • Problems with concentration, memory, and decision making
  • Sadness and hopelessness
  • Withdrawing and isolating
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed pastimes
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feeling suicidal or attempting suicide

Bipolar Mania Treatment

Treatment for bipolar mania varies from one individual to another. Often a person with bipolar will abuse substances to try to cope with their emotions and illness. This invariably makes matters worse. Substance abuse programs may make up part of the treatment. Medication for bipolar can involve antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers. Behavioral therapy is also used. In more severe cases of depression, electroconvulsive therapy may be considered.   

Conclusion

Unlike a disease such as cancer that we hope to eventually find a cure for, bipolar is thought to exist in the gene pool. Thus it will present time and time again, running in families. It is also believed to develop without it being inherited from a parent.

The good news is that bipolar mania can be managed. If you think you or a loved one need help and may experience bipolar symptoms, get help from a health professional. You can also call helplines for support.

Global Bipolar Helplines

U.S.: Call the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-6264 or find DBSA Chapters/Support Groups in your area. (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)

U.K.: Call the peer support line at 0333 323 3880 and leave a message for a return call or Find a Support Group near you. (Bipolar U.K.)

Australia: Call the Sane Helpline at 1800 187 263 or find a local Support Group. (Bipolar Australia)

Canada: Visit Finding Help for links to provincial helplines and support groups. (Mood Disorders Society of Canada)

Sources:

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