The Faces of Bipolar Disorder


The Faces of Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, are varied. Bipolar disorder is defined as a mental illness in which a person experiences stages of mania. These stages are characterized as extreme highs or extremes lows in moods and energy. Without proper treatment patients may experience psychosis, described as a loss of contact with reality. It affects less than 2 percent of the population, yet little is known about the genetic basis of the disorder. Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles along with the University of California San Francisco, Colombia’s University of Antioquia , and the University of Costa Rica have identified 50 brain and behavioral characteristics that are associated with the disorder. The discovery may lead to pinpointing the gene that causes the disorder.

According to Psych Central, a study of 230 bipolar I disorder individuals whose symptoms where severe enough to have been hospitalized discovered that many of the patients suffer polypharmacy. Polypharmacy is described as the use of multiple medications by a single patient. The study also discovered that polypharmacy is more severe in females, who in addition to their bipolar medication, where on antidepressants, stimulants, and antianxiety medications. The three faces of bipolar disorder are: Bipolar l, Bipolar II and Cyclothymic. In order to be diagnosed an individual must meet the criteria as set by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This is a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association. In this manual Bipolar I is defined as a person who has experienced at least one manic or mixed episode. Bipolar II requires a person to have experienced what is called a hypomanic episode, described as an elevated, expansive or irritable mood that last at least 4 days, and requires the person to have experienced a depressive episode. The last of the bipolar types is cyclothymic in which a person experiences various hypomanic and depressive episodes, yet never experiences a manic, highly depressive, or mixed state. The approved treatment for bipolar disorder is a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

People are becoming more educated towards the faces of bipolar disorder due to the high percentage of celebrities that have opened up about the struggles they face due to their diagnosis. Most recently Catherine Zeta-Jones opened up about having to check herself into a mental health clinic to be treated for bipolar II. Another celebrity to have opened up about her diagnosis is Demi Lovato, a former child actor, and now singer and judge on The X Factor. Marilyn Monroe’s physician stated in a documentary that she was a manic-depressive, and Sinead O’Connor was diagnosed after an attempted suicide. Vincent van Gogh is perhaps the most famous assumed bipolar, he painted the faces of the bipolar disorder. Van Gogh would go through phases in which he would paint incessantly, which would then alternate with extreme lows. He famously cut off his ear, spent a year institutionalized and ultimately shot himself.

The faces of bipolar disorder are many, with UCLA’s findings there is hope to identifying the cause and potentially a better treatment options.

By Dony Lugo


UCLA Newsroom
Psych Central
Mayo Clinic
American Journal of Psychiatry