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Bipolar disorder is characterized by elation and depression.
The problems that come with bipolar disorder are well-known, however, some people with the condition feel lucky to have it.
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 swings
as an illness separate from the self, as something that needed managing.
And most participants clearly viewed their "bipolarness" as a gift for which they felt extremely grateful, write the researchers, led by Fiona Lobban of Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.