Bipolar disorder is
perhaps one of the oldest known illnesses. Research
reveals some mention of the symptoms in early medical
records. It was first noticed as far back as the second
century. Aretaeus of Cappadocia (a city in ancient
Turkey) first recognized some symptoms of mania and
depression, and felt they could be linked to each other.
His findings went unnoticed and unsubstantiated until
1650, when a scientist named Richard Burton wrote a
book, The Anatomy of Melancholia, which focused
specifically on depression. His findings are still used
today by many in the mental health field, and he is
credited with being the father of depression as a mental
Jules Falret coined
term "folie circulaire" (circular insanity) in 1854, and
established a link between depression and suicide. His
work led to the term bipolar disorder, as he was able to
find a distinction between moments of depression and
heightened moods. He recognized this to be different
from simple depression, and finally in 1875 his recorded
findings were termed Manic-Depressive Psychosis, a
psychiatric disorder. Another lesser-known fact
attributed to Falret is that he found the disease seemed
to be found in certain families thus recognizing very
early that there was a genetic link.
believed there was a major distinction between bipolar
disorder and schizophrenia. He characterized the
depressive phase of the disease. It was this achievement
that allowed bipolar disorder to receive its own
classification from other mental disorders of the time.
In 1913, Emil Krapelin established the term
manic-depressive, with an exhaustive study surrounding
the effects of depression and a small portion about the
manic state. Within fifteen years, this approach to
mental illness was fully accepted and became the
prevailing theory of the early 1930ís.
In 1952, an
article appeared in The Journal of Nervous and Mental
Disorder, analyzing the genetics behind the disorder,
and revealing the likelihood that manic depression ran
in families already stricken with the disorder.
Throughout much of the 1960ís many with the disorder
were institutionalized and given little help financially
because of Congressí refusal to recognize manic
depression as legitimate illness. Only in the early
1970ís were laws enacted and standards established to
help those afflicted, and in 1979 the National
Association of Mental Health (NAMI) was founded.
In 1980, the term
bipolar disorder (1980) replaced manic-depressive
disorder as a diagnostic term found in the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric
Association (DSM-III). During the 1980ís research
finally was able to distinguish between adult and
childhood bipolar disorder, and even today more studies
are needed to find the probable causes and the possible
methods to treat the illness.
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