The History of Bipolar Disorder Shows it Has Always Existed
The history of bipolar disorder can be traced back to the
ancient civilizations. Human beings have always suffered from mood swings and depressions, but it was considered more of insanity and less of a disorder.
The distinction of recognizing bipolar disorder as a mental illness can be attributed to the Chinese
authors. Later, medical philosophers and physicians were also interested in the disorder and started describing the concepts
related to bipolar disorder. However, it was only in the 1850s that the psychiatric conceptualization of the disease was
possible. It was termed as manic depressive psychosis by the German psychiatrist named Emil Kraepelin.
Bipolar disorder refers to a mood disorder that often results in severe manic phases. Depression as well as abnormal mood swings can be noticed in people suffering from this disease. Some patients
experience the manic episodes at regular intervals and might suffer from hallucinations and delusions.
The history of bipolar disorder dates back to the 2nd century and medical records prove that it was known to
human beings for a long time. The first bipolar symptoms related to mania and depression was recognized by Aretaeus of
Cappadocia. But his work could not be supported with proof or evidence.
The Anatomy of Melancholia was published by a scientist named Richard Burton in 1650 and attracted attention
towards depression as a disorder. In 1875, the findings of Jules Farlet led to the coining of the term Manic-Depressive
Psychosis, referring to a psychiatric disorder. Farlet’s work drew a clear line between depression and phases of heightened or
abnormal mood swings. Francois Baillarger played an important role in distinguishing the disorder from schizophrenia and
concentrated on the depressive episodes related to the disease.
Exhaustive study and research followed and in 1913, Emil Kraepelin formulated the term manic depressive
disorder. Over the course of the next few decades, research was carried on and by the 1930s,
Kraepelin’s approach gained popularity. The involvements of genetic factors were recognized later in 1952, when the Journal
of Nervous and Mental Disorder published an article stating a genetic link to the disorder.
Although the history of bipolar disorder traces back to the ancient times, institutionalized treatment could
not be administered to patients until recently. Since there was no clear demarcation between insanity and mental illness, methods
of treatment could not be devised. Moreover, the physicians themselves had little knowledge about the disease and could not
In order to help the patients, laws were enacted in the 1970s and the National Association of Mental Health was
also founded in 1979, to help the cause of patients afflicted with mental disorders. Manic-depressive disorder was renamed as
Bipolar disorder in 1980.