History of Bipolar Disorder


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During the Ancient times in Greece, around the
1st century, physicians back then were already recording symptoms of the bipolar disorder or manic – depression. One of which is Aretaeus of Cappadocia, his notes were unnoticed for many years, but it’s one of the earliest records of this diagnosis.

            As mentioned earlier, the Greeks and also Romans are the ones who coined the terms “melancholia,” which means manic and depressive today. During those times, they also found out that lithium salts can calm people who are hyperactive, and at the same time, also boosting one’s energy for those who are depress. Today, believe it or not, lithium is one of the most common treatments for people diagnose with a bipolar disorder.

            During the ancient times, people with mental disorders are being executed because they are believed to be possessed by demons. Religious dogmas order mentally unstable people to be put to death. Fortunately through the advancement in medical studies, this kind of practice eventually stopped.       

            Around 17th century, author Robert Burton, in his book called The Anatomy of Melancholy, proposed that music and dancing can be used as a form of treatment for people with melancholia. The medical book also tackled the symptoms as well as possible treatment of what we know today as clinical depression. His book also served as a commentary collection about depression and its effects.

Just a few years after Burton published his book, another author named   Theophilus Bonet, wrote a book entitled Sepuchretum, and in it he coined the term manico-melancolicus, which is a combination of mania and melancholy. According to him mania and depression are the same kind of mental disorder; his basis was drawn from his autopsy experiences as a doctor, because at that time melancholy and depression are treated as two separate conditions.

Around the 19th and 20th century, Jean-Pierre Falret, a French psychiatrist, published an article around 1851 that was centered on circular insanity. This article was the first ever document about bipolar disorder, that explains details about people shifting from severe sadness to manic excitement. Falret also wrote in his article about the connection of genes among people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This belief still holds true among medical professionals today.

            Around 1921, German psychiatrist known as Emil Kraepelin in his book Manic Depressive Insanity and Paranoia broke away from the theory of Sigmund Freud. According to Freud, suppression plays a huge role in society’s mental illness. However, Kraepelin did a researched about the biological causes of mental illness, and in his book he discussed in full detail the difference between praecox (now known as schizophrenia) and melancholy. This study continues to be the basis for mental disorder classifications among medical professionals today.

            In the early 1950’s, another German psychiatrist named Karl Leonhard with his fellow colleagues, discussed the importance of better understanding the classification systems of various mental disorders in order to better treat this kinds of conditions.

            During the 1980s, the American Psychiatric Association’s (AMA) third revision of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) referred melancholy or manic – depression as “bipolar,” that signifies two opposite poles – mania and depression. Thanks to this revision, patients who are diagnosed with manic – depression was not called “maniacs” anymore.

            Today now in its 5th revision, the DSM is still the leading manual book that many health professionals and psychiatrist use.

            Greek philosopher Aristotle actually acknowledged the condition of melancholy or bipolar disorder because it has become in its own way an inspiration that brought forth to many great artists in history.

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