The list of famous celebrities who were diagnosed to have bipolar disease is impressive if we are to look at who is included. It is believed that Beethoven, Lord Byron and Charles Dickens suffered from this mental illness as well as more popular Hollywood celebrities like Phil Spector (record producer arrested for murder), Jim Carey (actor), Richard Dreyfus (actor in Jaws and many other roles), Linda Hamilton (actress in Terminator), Ozzy Osbourne (singer), and Amy Winehouse (singer). Known artist Vincent Van Gogh is also in the list.
And the list goes on and on. For a more extensive list of famous people with bipolar disease see here.
It is believed that creative people are likely to suffer from bipolar disorder. Studies show that during a manic episode those with the disease can be very creative, productive, highly energetic, hyperactive (need little or no sleep) and open to try anything. Many believe that there is a link between bipolar disorder and creativity. This is why there are more creative people in the list of personalities diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the latest of which is Catherine Zeta Jones, wife of famous Hollywood actor Michael Douglas.
Bipolar disorder symptoms manifest in an unpredictable cycle of episodes of mania and depression. At the beginning of a manic period they are “up.”, i.e., they are happy, energetic, productive and creative. They need less sleep and don’t feel tired at all.
The manic episodes are somewhat individualized in severity and they are often interspersed with episodes of depression. For some people, the manic-depressive periods can occur at the same time. For others, they can vary in frequency of manifestation. In one type of bipolar disorder known as rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, the person suffering from it has at least four periods of depressed and manic symptoms, or four mixed episodes within one year.
Combining Bipolar Disorder and Creativity
Those with bipolar disorder may feel prettier, funnier and smarter than they did before a manic episode. They can easily function even with only a few hours sleep. They tend to talk more, shop more, be sexually active and not worry about any what happens after that. Unfortunately, after each manic attack or episode their actions during the episode or attack could result to negative behavioral manifestation such as severe irritability and lack of patience. Sometimes, some actions result to legal problems, the break up of relationships and worst of all turning to substance use.
The effects of the disease is far from glamorous. For popular movie personalities who are bipolar, we have seen public breakdown and embarrassing moments which they could not control and later on lead to the end of one’s career, marriage and life. We know of cases involving famous celebrities addicted to drugs and alcohol. Unable to function, bipolar people usually requires long period of confinement to hospitals or rehabilitation facilities for a long-term treatment program.
While some people, celebrities and famous people included, learn to control their bipolar disorder and function somewhat normally, there are some who just get through the rough cycle of productive and non-productive periods in their lives. When there are no episodes, they live a normal life. And when the symptoms manifest, it’s just brutally difficult.
Scientists have long wondered if the episodes in between manic and depressive states has something to do with the person’s creativity. Research in the fields of medicine and psychology has focused on finding this link. There has been some success in showing that even for non-celebrities, a disproportionate number of those with bipolar illness are likely doing work which requires artistic and creative abilities.
For some people with milder forms of bipolar disorder, it is believed that the mental disorder somehow triggers some nerves on that part of the brain for creativity and artistry. Hence, we see bipolar people who are considered exceptionally creative and overly-artistic.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
It hasn’t been determined yet what causes bipolar disorder. It is believed that it can run in families and thus has a genetic component. One group of researchers discovered that bipolar people sometimes have unusual brain anatomy which could have increased their propensity for being compulsive and unstable. Some believe there are nutritional or chemical ties to the disease.
Some question if there are external factors that contribute to having the disease. There is ongoing research to uncover if social conditions or circumstances and stress can trigger the disease as a whole or set off manic-depressive episodes.
While researchers and medical practitioners are searching for a cure for bipolar disorder, there is a growing concern on the possibility of the potential loss of truly creative minds once it is proven that genetics has no link whatsoever to the disease. If we learn to manipulate the genes that cause bipolar disorder, would we have made that choice and perhaps lose the gifted musical performances of Jimi Hendrix and Sting, the stunning sports abilities of Daryl Strawberry or the creative genius of Edger Allan Poe and Virginia Wolf? Some of these people never learned to deal with their disorder and while they were creative geniuses, they were often miserable and lonely and some even thrived under the aegis of the disease.