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What we know — and dont know — about bipolar disorder
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- Kanye West dropped his new album "Ye" on Friday.
- In it, he says he has bipolar disorder and calls the mental illness his "superpower."
- The controversial statement follows several months of recent controversy on Twitter in which the artist proclaimed his support for President Trump, opined that "love is infinite," and alleged that slavery was a choice.
Kanye West's new album "Ye" is shaping up to add fuel to the controversy the artist started on Twitter last month.
After taking to the social media platform to alternately proclaim his support for President Donald Trump, suggest that slaves had a choice, and wax philosophical with statements like "love is infinite," West dropped his new album "Ye" on Friday in which he says he has bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness that West calls his "superpower."
In album art from the new cover, West wrote, "I hate being Bi-Polar / it's awesome."
Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that's estimated to affect close to 6 million Americans, or 2.8% of the US adult population, according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health.
In one of the most widely-known recent representations of the disorder in the media, the hit Showtime television series "Homeland" featured a main character with bipolar disorder, CIA agent Carrie Mathison, played by actress Claire Danes. As somewhat accurately portrayed in the show's first season, people with bipolar disorder experience sharp swings in mood that shift from mania — or an extremely high-energy phase in which they may feel agitated, jittery, and paranoid — to severe depression, in which they have little to no energy and a pervasively negative outlook on life. For most people, symptoms start to emerge around age 25.
Although it can seem extreme, many cases of bipolar disorder are treated successfully with a combination of talk therapy and medication.
What we know — and don't know — about bipolar disorder
Because of its wide range of symptoms, bipolar disorder can frequently go undiagnosed or be mixed up with other disorders like ADHD, schizophrenia, and depression.
That's a significant challenge not only for psychiatrists and medical professionals who seek to accurately diagnose the condition but also for people with the disorder who are looking for help. The risk of suicide among people with bipolar disorder is high — roughly 6% of people who have it attempt to take their own lives over a 20-year period, according to a recent study in the British Medical Journal. Other harmful behaviors like cutting are common in people with bipolar disorder as well, oc curing in an estimated one third of those who have it.
As with so many mental illnesses and neuropsychiatric disorders, scientists still aren't sure what causes bipolar disorder.
The brain is our most complex and enigmatic organ, and researchers are only just beginning to lift the curtain on what goes on inside of it. In most cases, researchers can only characterize mental illnesses by the external symptoms that people display; we still don't understand how — or even to what extent — specific brain regions or patterns of activity contribute to each individual condition.
It is believed that genetics play a strong role in the overall risk of developing bipolar disorder, but environmental factors may influence this risk as well. A handful of small recent studies are emerging, which have begun to highlight some clues about better ways to identify these causes and diagnose the condition sooner — a factor that is key to good treatment.
One study published in 2019 in the journal Psychological Medicine suggested that testing the blood of children as young as nine could help determine their risk of developing bipolar disorder later in life.
Another study published last week in the journal Schizophrenia Research found that although bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are often confused, we may one day be able to distinguish the conditions by means of specific biologic markers — such as those found in the blood of young people — and that machine learning and artificial intelligence could help us do this faster and with greater accuracy.
So although there's much to learn about mental illness as a whole, there are signs of progress on the horizon. In the meantime, artists like West are doing what they can to make the most out of their diagnosis.
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