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Bipolar Disorder Has Its Upside, Patients Say

•, Wynne Parry
 In a British study, 10 people with biopolar disorder — a serious mental illness characterized by swings between elation and depression — talked about positive ways the condition had affected their lives.

The participants described an amplifying effect on their own internal experiences, say the researchers in their study published online April 1 in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

For instance, a participant the researchers call Alan (names were changed to protect privacy), said: "It's almost as if it opens up something in the brain that isn't otherwise there, and er I see color much more vividly than I used to. ... So I think that my access to music and art are something for which I'm grateful to bipolar for enhancing. It's almost as it's a magnifying glass that sits between that and myself."
In some cases, participants believed bipolar disorder had helped them achieve goals that would not have otherwise been possible. For Alan, this meant performing in comic theater: "Had it not been for being bipolar, there's no chance I could have done it," he said.

When talking about the relationship between the disorder and a sense of self, only one participant described the mood swingsas an illness separate from the self, as something that needed managing.

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