A Bipolar Diagnosis is a Bad Thing. Right?
Schizophrenia may be a serious condition that affects millions in America; so may obsessive compulsive disorder. If there is one mental health problem that the country worries about it though, it has to be bipolar disorder. While the other two diseases put together a fact no more than 2% of the population, a bipolar diagnosis is a certainty for nearly 5% of America. That is an unbelievable number, and practically a national emergency. Especially when you take a look at how often bipolar is diagnosed in other developed countries with a great medical infrastructure. Japan, for instance, finds that less than 1% of its population has it. But there could be something else behind that will figure. In the US, a culture of openness prevails around psychiatric disorders. In Japan, where going to a psychiatrist is something to be ashamed of, people may just not be willing to speak up about it. But maybe it’s a good thing that we aren’t doing enough about it.
There is a little bit of speculation around that America’s higher rates of bipolar disorder might have something to do with this country’s great entrepreneurial success. The Hypomaniac Edge: The Link Between (a Little) Craziness and (a Lot of) Success in America is a descriptively titled book that tries to look at how hypomania, a mild kind of mania, can have entrepreneurs working with far more energy than normal people in a way that they need to to get a new business off the ground.
The book actually follows a particularly unorthodox view of what a bipolar diagnosis means. Traditionally, a bipolar diagnosis has always meant living a debilitated life where one has depression, aggression and a certain loss of touch with reality. The book explores how a little mania can be a good thing – especially since it takes so much energy and belief in oneself to establish a new business.
While having a book written about it makes the whole thing a bit mainstream and legitimate, businessmen have often suspected that a large number of successful people in their midst come from a bipolar background. They even informally call bipolar the CEO’s Disease, so well is it recognized as helpful with seriously demanding jobs. Read through a list of symptoms for a bipolar diagnosis: quickly irritated by the smallest setbacks, restless, constantly coming by new ideas – and it reads like a list of traits you need to succeed in business.
While the depressive parts of bipolar certainly holds people back from success, the manic part more than makes up for it. Why, there lots of people who believe Steve Jobs has just a little bit of bipolar.