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Rapper Kanye West has opened up about his 2016 diagnosis of bipolar disorder and it has created a discussion to popularize. The artist has had many public episodes including his announcement to run for presidency and openly sharing that his wife considered having an abortion of the first child, North West. Due to his public episodes, a common stigma surrounding mental health has resurfaced. “It’s a health issue that has a strong stigma on it, and people are allowed to say anything about it and discriminate in any way,” Kanye West stated.2 In light of this, we wanted to share more about the effects of bipolar disorder on the brain to break down stigma and share the truth about this condition.

Kanye West & Bipolar Disorder

Kanye West was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2016. The artist is known for his many outbursts and “odd” behaviors, which we now know are likely the result of his diagnosis. However, Kanye West’s erratic behavior started way before his diagnosis.

As you may recall, one of his first public episodes portraying bipolar-like behavior was his appearance in the 2009 VMAs. There, he abruptly interrupted singer Taylor Swift as she was accepting the award for Best Video by a Female Artist saying “I’mma let you finish, But Beyonce has one of the best videos of all time.” He later stated that God told him to storm the stage, clearly displaying a bipolar disorder episode3.

Unfortunately for Kanye West, the episodes have gotten incrementally worse and the rapper who once admitted to taking medication, stated in 2020 that he doesn’t anymore because they hinder his creativity4. He has chosen to take alternative methods of treatment.

The best thing to come from Kanye West’s disorder is that it shines a light on the disease and brings the topic to the discussion which affects 5 million Americans2. He has made it a mission of his to change the way people think about it and identify the disease as a health issue much like a sprained ankle. “It is a health issue… It’s like a sprained brain, like having a sprained ankle. And if someone has a sprained ankle, you’re not going to push on him more,” he stated5.  But what is bipolar disorder and how does it affect the brain?

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Kanye West is very much not alone in his bipolar diagnosis. In fact, more than 5 million Americans have some form of bipolar disorder.2 Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mental health condition that is characterized as a person having extreme mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.

The highs could be characterized as mania or hypomania while the lows can be characterized as depression.2 Although there is no real cause of bipolar disorder, some researchers suggest that bipolar disorder can be caused by genetics, stress, and abnormal brain function and structure.

Different Types of Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar I disorder: In this type of bipolar disorder, the person has had at least one manic episodes that may be followed by hypomanic or extremely depressive episodes.
  • Bipolar II disorder: In this type of bipolar disorder, the person has had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode but has never had a manic episode.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: In this type of bipolar disorder, the person has had at least two years of many periods of hypomania symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms. This disorder, however, is much less severe than major depression.
  • Other types of bipolar disorder include, bipolar and related disorders induced by certain drugs or alcohol or due to a medical condition, such as Cushing’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Since there are different types of bipolar disorder, the person may experience all or only some of these symptoms, as the disorder affects everyone differently.

Mania and Hypomania

Mania is more severe than hypomania and causes more noticeable problems in the person’s everyday life. Mania may also trigger a break from reality (psychosis) and require hospitalization. Although mania and hypomania are two different types of episodes, the symptoms are the same. Mania and hypomania include three or more of the following symptoms1:

  • Abnormally upbeat, jumpy, or wired
  • Increased activity, energy, or agitation
  • A euphoric feeling is an exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Distractibility
  • Poor decision-making

Major Depressive Episode

A manic-depressive episode can be characterized by a period of extreme lows, sadness, and otherwise inability to perform everyday activities.  An episode includes five or more of this symptoms1:

  • Depressed mood
  • Marked loss of interest or feeling no pleasure in all, or almost all activities
  • Significant weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite
  • Either insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Either restlessness or slowed behavior
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Decreased ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
  • Thinking about, planning, or attempting suicide


What Happens In The Brain With Bipolar Disorder?

How bipolar disorder affects the brain varies from person to person. Research suggests that those parts of the brain affected are the gray matter, hippocampus, and changes in the chemicals of the brain.2

Gray Matter

The gray matter of your brain helps you process information, control impulses, and regulate motor skills. When your gray matter decreases, you may have less control over your impulses. It can also affect how you process information and react to your feelings. This may explain why episodes of mania seem impulsive, careless, and thoughtless.

The Hippocampus

The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is responsible for the way you process long-term memories. The right side of the hippocampus helps you associate certain places with specific memories while the left side regulates verbal and visual memory. It also helps regulate how you respond to situations emotionally. When your mood changes, the hippocampus changes shapes and shrinks. This can lead to depression, memory issues, frustration, and irritability.

Chemical Changes in the Brain

Having bipolar disorder can also affect the chemicals in your brain. When you have bipolar disorder, Neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, in your brain can change. Scientists believe the main neurotransmitters affected by bipolar disorder are noradrenaline or norepinephrine and serotonin. Noradrenaline affects alertness, arousal and reaction time.

It also may affect concentration whereas serotonin affects happiness, anxiousness and overall moodiness. Additionally, serotonin helps you behave socially and regulates sleep. High levels of norepinephrine and serotonin can trigger manic symptoms and low levels of the chemicals can cause a depressive episode. When these get affected, an episode is very common to occur.

Seeking Treatment for Bipolar Disorder with Clearbrook Massachusetts

There is no cure for the long-term effects of bipolar disorder on the brain, but treatment options are available to you such as behavioral therapy and antipsychotic medications. Although you have options, waiting to seek treatment is not one of them. It is pertinent to seek out these options as soon as you notice you may have bipolar disorder or if a medical professional diagnoses you with the disease.

If you believe you are struggling with the disease, it is also important that you speak with a doctor or medical professional first. There, they will refer you to a mental health professional/facility. That is where our Massachusetts treatment center comes in.

Our residential mental health care includes a variety of therapies and treatment methods to care for our patients on an individual basis, according to their diagnosis. We pride ourselves on providing truly customized care for all patients.

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health, contact Clearbrook Treatment Center today: (877) 360-1639.




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