Yes, there can be advantages to having bipolar disorder. These advantages, however, often come at a cost. For those people with bipolar disorder who are able to keep their mood swings in check, or for those few who are able to maintain a highly energized state, having bipolar creates the opportunity to be remarkably productive and creative. The benefits of bipolar disorder are mostly connected to being just a bit hypomanic, or experiencing the “highs” of cyclothymia that never quite meet criteria for a hypomanic, manic, or mixed state.
This makes a great deal of sense for a number of reasons.
• On a cognitive level, when people are hypomanic their belief in their own ability to succeed and do what they set out to do is quite high. The negative self-talk and pessimism of depression is nowhere to be found. There’s a confidence that helps people accomplish their tasks with an unswerving belief in their own abilities. “I can get that book written in four weeks, no problem!” “Cater a party for three hundred, sure, why not?” “Run for president? Okay.” Many people who’ve gone far in the fields of politics, the arts, business, law, medicine, etc. have likely had, or have, bipolar disorder.
• In a slightly hypomanic state, there can be an ease with the creative process, writing, drawing, composing, decorating, etc. This may be in part due to the enhanced sense of one’s own abilities. The critical mind, which can create a total buzzkill to creativity, is quiet, allowing imagination to flourish.
• When hypomanic, people often enjoy the sense of increased energy, of thoughts moving quickly and smoothly from topic to topic.
On the depressed side too, the world of arts and letters is filled with the creative, and often heartbreaking, output of artists able to tap into their darker hours and give voice. Much of the strongest prose comes when people boldly venture into the heart of their greatest pain.