One Person in a Hundred

"Most recent studies put the prevalence of unipolar depression in the general population at around 7 or 8 percent while bipolar illness is approximately 1 percent."

Peter C. Whybrow, "A Mood Apart."

"Between 0.8% and 1.6% of the general population has 'bipolar I' disorder, marked by swings from extreme depression to extreme mania. About 0.5% (1 in 200) has 'bipolar II' disorder, in which people vary from severely depressed to hypomanic, a milder form of mania. New cases of bipolar disorder have been recognized in young children and in the elderly, but the typical age at first onset is between 15 and 19."

David J. Miklowitz, "The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide."


Join the Club

They tell us that one person in a hundred has some form of manic-depressive illness. Hard to believe. It's not like you hear about it much in the news. The gays are out of the closet, those with physical disability have the Disabilities Act, but where are all the basket cases?

While frequently we need to hide the illness from others we must never hide it from ourselves. You need to join the club.

Whether you admit it to others or not, you must admit it to yourself. You must accept that you are subject to manic episodes. You must take responsibility for your own life. Without this first step there is no hope of learning to avoid manic episodes. Without this acceptance it is unlikely that you will seek assistance while there is still time to avoid an episode. Without acceptance, manic episodes will creep up on you like a thief in the night.

It took me about ten years, half a dozen serious manic episodes, and the dogged persistence of a determined psychiatrist before I joined the club. I viewed the illness as an aberration, as something that happened to me, not something that was part of me — like a car accident or a piece of bad luck that landed upon me. I did not view it as something that would happen to me again, and again, unless I actively sought to avoid it.

Natural Course of Bipolar Disorder

"However, many subsequent studies have shown that, if untreated, episodes of bipolar disorder occur more and more frequently in individual patients. The illness seems to accelerate if untreated, and in the days before treatment was available, mood episodes tended to recur more and more frequently as patients aged."

Francis M. Mondimore, "Bipolar Disorder A Guide for Families and Patients."


Perhaps you are not as stubborn as I am. Perhaps once bitten you will be twice shy. I hope so. There is no initiation ceremony to join the club but there is a rite of passage. It requires a change of attitude that accepts the illness as part of oneself and determines to do something about it. It requires a resolve that from now on you will take responsibility for your own life. It requires a determination to take hold of the tiller and to set a course, no longer blown aimlessly by the storms of mania and cast adrift in the doldrums of depression. The alternative is just to ignore it and hope that it will go away — it won't.

So join the club, collect your basket and start weaving.

I'm sorry, you can't go home until you're better.