It wasn’t always known that bipolar disorder was an illness with an actual medical basis. Doctors and researchers have learned a lot about this mental illness since the discovery of bipolar disorder.
Discovery of Bipolar Disorder
In 400 BC, Hippocrates made a connection between melancholy and mania. Although this is the first written “discovery” of bipolar disorder, it went largely unexplored by others during this time period. This was in part because mental illnesses had more of a superstitious quality to them with no known cause or cure as it was not seen as having a medical basis.
In 150 AD, Sorenus of Ephedrus discussed distinct variations between the moods of mania and melancholy. Aretaeus of Cappadcia noted that some people could alternate between these highs and lows and believed these events were somehow related.
From 300 through 500 AD, little was understood about those with both melancholy and manic episodes. They were thought to have severe problems such as bad blood or even demonic possession. Since the disorder was still not thought to be of medical origin, patients were chained, exposed to blood-letting, given “magic potions” and even put to death as mercy killings according to Bipolar Hope Magazine.
Establishing the Connection between Depressive Moods and Mania
In 1583, Chinese author Gao Lian made the first written distinction of bipolar disorder as a mental illness. He also noted there was a connection between increased symptoms of bipolar and exposure to stress.
In 1621, Robert Burton defined depression as a mental illness independent of bipolar and connection to moods of mania.
In 1686, Th©ophile Bonet linked both melancholy and mania, calling the condition “Manico-Melancolicus”.
In 1854, scientists Jules Baillarger and Jean-Pierre Falret each independently presented research on the connection between low and high moods in the same individuals. Baillarger termed the condition “dual-from insanity”. Falret called this mood disorder “circular insanity”. The term “insanity” shows that during the time period, mood disorders were still not considered illnesses with a medical basis.
Better Understanding of Bipolar Disorder in More Recent History
In 1899, Emil Kraepelin noted genetic and environmental factors that influence bipolar disorder. He also saw how those affected often had episodes in mood swings with periods of normal functioning in between these phases.
In the early 1900s, Sigmund Freud was able to help some patients with bipolar disorder by the use of psychoanalysis. This led to reduced emphasis on possible medical causes.
In 1902, Kraepelin introduced the term “manic-depressive” into the field of psychiatry.
In 1949, doctor John Cade discovered the first pharmacological treatment for bipolar disorder ‘” lithium. This is the first actual proof that bipolar disorder might have a medical basis rather than just being all in the mind.
In the mid 1900s, patients with bipolar disorder were more humanized rather than demonized, and it was realized that those with bipolar could function normally with proper treatment.
In the early 1950s, Karl Leonhard uses the term “bipolar” and noted the difference between depression and bipolar disorder. This builds upon Burton’s distinction between the two back in 1621.
In 1952, “manic depressive reaction” appears in the first Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM).
In 1968, bipolar disorder is named “manic depressive illness” in the second version of the DSM. This is the first time bipolar is listed as an actual illness showing the possible medical basis, hence potential treatment of this disorder.
In 1980, the term “bipolar disorder” is used in the updated DSM. Distinctions are also made between adult bipolar disorder and the illness in children.
In 1992, the most recent DSM, the DSM-IV, differentiates types of bipolar disorder with the addition of Bipolar II. Rapid cycling and mixed states are also noted in this version of the DSM. It took from the first “discovery” of bipolar disorder by Hippocrates in 400 BC until the early 1990s for bipolar disorder to be understood closest to our understanding today of the illness.
In 2004, a gene was discovered that might identify those susceptible to bipolar disorder.
With the discovery of bipolar disorder, it can be noted that several prominent figures in history experienced symptoms of this mental illness. According to Depression Guide, statesmen such as Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt were thought to have bipolar disorder. Writers such as Leo Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf showed symptoms pf bipolar disorder, as well as the musicians Handel and Berlioz, among others.
Bipolar disorder has gone from being seen as incurable with a basis in the supernatural, to an illness with biological origins that can be effectively treated. With the humanization of those with bipolar disorder and better understanding of the nuances within the different types of the illness, better treatment options have become available allowing those with this potentially debilitating mental illness to live full and functional lives.
K12 Academics; Bipolar Disorder ‘” History; http://www.k12academics.com/disorders-disabilities/bipolar-disorder/history
Bipolar Hope Magazine; Through the ages, it’s been there; http://www.bphope.com/Item.aspx/162/through-the-ages-its-been-there
Depression Guide; Histpry of Bipolar disorder; http://www.depression-guide.com/bipolar-disorder-history.htm