There is much to be known about bipolar disorder regarding symptoms, genetics, causes, and even the history of bipolar disorder itself. Bipolar disorder research began in at least 98 to 177 A.D. It is known that Soranus of Ephesus had a description of the disorder as a mixture of melancholia (the Ancient Greek term for depression) and mania. His findings were that the depression and mania were two separate illnesses and each had their own different cause. Many psychiatric researchers would come after him with new information and would completely change the way the disorder was recognized.
The History of Bipolar Disorder Begins
An eclectic philosopher, Aretaus of Cappadocia is attributed for having the oldest and largest amount of surviving literature about the findings of bipolar disorder. Sometime between 30 to 150 A.D. Aretaues’ research found that mania and depression to have the same origin and he termed the disorder as manic depressive illness.
The Role the Chinese Played in the History of the Disorder
Several hundred years later the Chinese would release information about the disorder and put their claim into the history of bipolar disorder in the 8 Treatises on the Nurturing of Life. In this, encyclopediast Gao Lian (1583) described the mixture of mania and depression as a mental illness. It would be close to 400 years later before more detailed information about bipolar disorder would be released.
The French Take on Bipolar Research
In 1854 two separate French researchers released their findings about bipolar disorder only two weeks apart from one another. Jules Balliarger would release his findings in January and Jean-Pierre Falret would in February of the same year. Both findings agreed that this disorder was different than common depression or schizophrenia. Balliarger’s research found an oscillation between periods of mania and periods of depression. In Falret’s research he noted the same but also learned that there was a genetic predisposition to the illness and that suicide was prevalent among those with the disorder. Balliarger coined the term biphasic mental illness and Falret called it dual form insanity.
The early 1900s would bring more to the history of bipolar disorder with findings from a German psychiatrist. Dr. Emeril Kraepelin observed untreated patients with depression and mania and found that between periods of mania or depression that the patients also had intervals of normal behavior. He would call the illness manic depressive psychosis.
The History of Bipolar Treatments
The treatment of bipolar disorder in history is interesting. An Australian researcher began using lithium salts in 1949 as a medicinal treatment for manic depressive disorder. Later in the 50s and 60 some hospitals and institutions in the United States would use lithium experimentally with some patients because the US government refused to acknowledge the condition as a real illness. It wouldn’t be until the 1970s that the FDA would approve the use of the medicine for bipolar disorder and for new laws to be enacted to protect patients with bipolar disorder. Prior to the 1970s many with the disorder would be institutionalized. Bipolar disorder treatment would be groundbreaking in the fact that it was the first mental illness to be treated with medication-beating out anxiety and schizophrenia.
Since the 1970s more research has been done and has found that bipolar disorder often runs in families, the symptoms are clear cut and diagnosing the disorder is relatively easy for trained psychiatric doctors. The stigma that bipolar disorder was a psychotic disorder were lifted as more and more research was released to the contrary as well as the admission of many famous people admitting to having the disorder themselves.
Famous Bipolar People Past & Present
Some well known people with bipolar disorder include actor/comedian Jim Carey and Robin Williams. Robert Downy Jr. and Ted Turner are also known to have the disorder according to Mental Health Today. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin and athletes such as golfer Jon Daley, basketball player Darryl Strawberry, and numerous musical artists, authors, and painters are known to have or had bipolar disorder.
The more knowledge we know about mental illness the more we are able to lift the stigma about the condition. Due to the copious amount of research conducted on this disorder there are now a variety of treatment plans for individuals with bipolar so that they can live a more normal and productive life than those who came before them.
Medscape (2007). Historical perspectives and natural history of bipolar disorder. Retrieved July 18, 2007, from the Medscape Web site: http://www.medscape.com/medline/abstract?pmid=11018218.