On the Upswing: Bipolar Disorder

In this segment, titled on the upswing, I’ll be going over things I found while researching the disorders that demonstrate a potentially beneficial side effect to the various illnesses that we struggle to treat today.

Bipolar Disorder

I start with bipolar disorder, simply because it is best to write what you know, as the saying goes.  Bipolar disorder is a cyclical disorder relating to moods, specifically a manic upswing and a depressive downswing. When these happen and how long each phase of the cycle lasts vary from person to person. In my case, I’ve had  depression phases that last for months at time and manic upswings that keep me from getting much sleep last for weeks at  time. Now a days it is, to be quite frank, a colossal pain. I will get depressive phases that make it very difficult to get myself out of bed and off to school, something which could greatly harm my career. I also get manic phases that make it really easy to get a lot done when it seems like there are not enough hours in a day. This, of course, can’t last forever and eventually I go down in a sleep deprived blaze of glory that only serves to exacerbate the upcoming depression.

All of that is horribly inconvenient, and it has made me wonder many times why such a thing would exist. Every time, I came up blank. The good news is that some kind ladies and gentlemen with spiffy white coats are far smarter than I will ever be. Some fine folks at the International Mood Center in La Jolla, CA have written a paper about the possible evolutionary implications of the disorder. Their theory is that humans that had bipolar disorder in the hunter-gatherer days essentially had a built in hibernation system, like many other animals.

During the summer, they would have more energy, joy, and wakefulness, which made them more efficient at things like hunting and mating. When the winter came, the depressive phase would kick in, and the low key thoughts kept them focused on getting their family or tribe through the deadly winter. They also speculate that the tendency for a bipolar individual to have a interest or talent in creative endeavors was also helpful to the mating process by giving the males of the time more desirable traits, such as poetry, art, cooking, and the like.


I’d never really thought about the disorder in this light, and I personally think it makes sense. It seems obvious to me that as time went on, something went awry and it no longer works like they theorize it did, with random unpredictable cycles, but I feel that I understand it much better now. If you have any thoughts on this, please leave a comment.

Works Cited

Akiskal, Kareen K., and Hagop S. Akiskal. “The theoretical underpinnings of affective temperaments: implications for evolutionary foundations of bipolar disorder and human nature.” Journal of Affective Disorders. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.

“Bipolar Disorder.” Disease Info Search. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2015. <www.diseaseinfosearch.org/result/847>.

Sherman, Julia A. “Evolutionary origin of bipolar disorder-revised: EOBD-R.” Medical Hypotheses. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2015.