“The most beautiful thoughts are always beside the darkest…. “ Kanye speaks in the opening of his album Ye, but what does that mean? Some people love his creativity and talent, while he leaves others feeling indifferent, confused, or as if they have a bad taste in their mouth. Others say he's just simply misunderstood.
To understand Kanye you would have to gain an understanding of bipolar disorder. No this isn't me giving him an unofficial diagnosis or making assumptions about his life/experiences. Kanye has made it known to the public a few years ago that in 2016 he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.
There are so many misconceptions about bipolar disorders. Within society we see a lot of individuals label themselves or others as bipolar because they go from "0-100 real quick", or when a person exhibits an influx in their moods throughout the day. This is not what Bipolar Disorder looks like. Another misconception is that individuals who have Bipolar Disorder have 2 different personalities and that isn't the case either. So that leaves many people asking "what exactly is Bipolar Disorder?"
The term Bipolar Disorder is an umbrella term used to house the 4 different types of Bipolar Disorder. We are going to talk about 3 of them. The most commonly known type is Bipolar 1 Disorder.
This is what Kanye has; he deals with manic episodes.
In order for an individual to meet the criteria for Bipolar 1 disorder, they’ve had to experience a manic episode/mania that has lasted at least a week. These manic episodes can last up to a month. During this time they have to be experiencing 3 of the following things nearly every day.
One of those things is an inflated self-esteem. This means during an episode they are fearless. The second is that during that episode they are super goal-directed. We saw an example of this in 2020 when Kanye announced that he was running for president, then shortly after announced that he would be releasing an album around the same time. The most recent example we've seen was him deciding to sleep in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta while finishing up his last album.
Before making his diagnosis public Kanye used to tell people that he was just dealing with sleep deprivation. Many individuals that have Bipolar 1 disorder have this influx/excessive amount of energy, which decreases their need for sleep. So, they can go days without sleeping. Which we know can lead to a plethora of problems.
Another characteristic of Bipolar 1 disorder is excessive talking and rapid speech which goes hand in hand with the racing thoughts these individuals have. This is typically what we see when Kanye goes on one of his Twitter rants, or when he is rambling in an interview, jumping from subject to subject. Sometimes not making sense. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Kanye stated that he feels a heightened connection with the universe when he is ramped up.
Having these rapid thoughts/flights of ideas flow through their head simultaneously makes it difficult for individuals to form coherent sentences. Simply because they are trying to explain all of their thoughts and ideas at one time.
One huge misconception that contributes to the negative stigma surrounding bipolar disorder that we did not discuss earlier is society's way of painting these individuals as a threat to the people around them. When the reality is that these individuals are less of a threat to others, and more of a threat to themselves during an active manic episode.
Individuals that are living with Bipolar disorder have what we call a sense of grandiosity. This means they feel as if they are either a higher power/savior, or that they are being given derivatives from a higher power. During this time they believe they are invincible. This is where that risk to self comes in.
These individuals can not appropriately assess the danger associated with their actions/behaviors. So they do things that can potentially cause them harm. Because of this, individuals with Bipolar disorder have a higher risk of death by suicide. Approximately ⅕ of individuals with this disorder commit suicide. These individuals are thinking in the moment because they have the belief that they can do anything without consequence. It is estimated that individuals with bipolar disorder have a 9.2-year reduced life expectancy in comparison to people who don't have it. (NIMH)
When individuals are in a manic state they deal with psychosis/delusions. They are hearing and or seeing things that aren't actually there. They believe that they are powerful or are in positions of power. An example of this is them believing they are members of secret societies, high-level operatives, government officials, even though they clearly lack the proper background. (berman,2020)
When it comes to auditory hallucinations they think they are being stalked, targeted, or surveilled. In an interview, Kanye stated that "when you're in a manic state you are hyper-paranoid about everything. Everything is a conspiracy…. you feel like the government is putting chips in your head…. you feel like you are being recorded.”
So what’s the difference between Bipolar 1 Disorder and Bipolar 2 Disorder? Bipolar 1 disorder only requires individuals to have a manic episode for at least a week. Some individuals have that one episode get the treatment they need (which we will discuss later on) and never have another manic episode again. While others continue to have manic episodes throughout their lifetime.
Bipolar 2 disorder is defined by hypomania followed by a major depressive episode for at least 4 consecutive days. With Hypomania, individuals are still experiencing highs and lows but the highs are not on that same severity level as bipolar 1 disorder.
One of the most common examples used to explain Hypomania is a person that gets up and goes to the gym 3 times a day 4 times a week. To outsiders, this person is seen as an overachiever or a go-getter. Then when they are experiencing a depressive episode they stop going to the gym and are dealing with severe depression (it pains these people out of bed) and have low energy levels.
The third category of Bipolar disorder is Cyclothymic disorder. This type is the most difficult to diagnosis simply because an individual has to have been dealing with these extreme highs and extreme lows for at least 2 years with a 2 month period of no symptoms. It's like a roller coaster ride, but despite these highs and lows they are still capable of completing the tasks of everyday living such as going to work, and functioning in society.
Bipolar disorders doesn't only affect the individual who has it. It affects the family unit. When an individual is experiencing a manic episode it is nearly impossible to communicate with them effectively. The state of mania makes them act like a totally different person who is difficult to understand. So, let’s talk a little bit more about Kanye.
In one of his most recent rants in 2020 he revealed to the world that Kim almost aborted their first child. Following this, he went on a Twitter rant stating that his wife and mother-in-law were trying to lock him up.
Naturally, people are aware of what is appropriate to say in certain situations and what we should keep to ourselves. But, when an individual is going through a manic episode they have no filter. They are saying whatever they think of in that moment. Oftentimes it's memories that they have repressed. Which can hurt the people around them.
At that moment Kanye took a very private, intimate family moment and made it public. Which caused a stain on his marriage. Let's take a break from Kanye and discuss statistics.
According to the National Institute of mental health(NIMH), Bipolar disorder affects roughly 5.7 million adults in the U.S , that is 2.6% of the adult population. Statistics also show that 4.4% of the U.S population will experience Bipolar disorder at some point in their lifetime. More than ⅔ of individuals with bipolar disorder have at least one close relative that has it as well so there is a correlation between bipolar disoder and genetics.
So how do we treat Bipolar disorders?
Bipolar disorder can't just be cured, but it can be treated. Because bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose, many individuals live life undiagnosed and untreated. Just like treatment for anything, there is no one size fits all approach.
However, the most effective treatment plan for Bipolar Disorder is a combination of psychotherapy and medications. In numerous interviews, Kanye stated that he refuses to take medications because they change who he is as a person. Medications such as mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants are typically used to help stabilize a person's mood, and balance the chemicals in their brain. As stated these medications should be taken in conjunction to receiving psychotherapy. In Between episodes, many people are free of mood changes.
In 2018 on Jimmy Kimmel Kanye stated being bipolar makes him who he is. He also said something I agree with. Which was, "it’s important to have open conversations on mental health. People need to be able to express themselves without the fear of judgment.” He then made this analogy "it's like when someone has a sprained ankle you're not going to push on them to do more...but when someone is dealing with something mentally people tend to push them more which then makes them worse.”
One takeaway that Kanye wants people to have when it comes to his experience with bipolar disorder comes is:
“You can make mistakes and still be successful”
Berman, M. R. (2020, July 15). Understanding Kanye West's bipolar disorder. Medical News. Retrieved from https://www.medpagetoday.com/popmedicine/celebritydiagnosis/87581.
Bipolar disorder statistics. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. (2019, July 12). Retrieved from https://www.dbsalliance.org/education/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-disorder-statistics/.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Nimh " bipolar disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder.