Manic depression or bipolar disorder is a mood disorder where people experience abnormal levels of high energy or depressive states. While generally thought of as a disorder, there are many examples of people who have this disorder and used it to their advantage.
In the article Manic Depression: The CEO’s Disease, the author points out that many leaders can be successful due to the mania involved. They also may not even realize they have the disorder. “On average, it takes 10 years from the onset of the illness for a manic depressive to receive a correct diagnosis. In the interim, some of them do very well in business. And as more and more such sufferers come forward, many psychiatrists are convinced that their good fortune is at least partly a result of their illness. Dr. Sagar Parikh, head of the Bipolar Clinic at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto, says 10% of those who have manic depression actually perform better in their jobs than a “healthy” individual. “[Manic depression] gives them that extra bit of panache to do the big deal,” says Parikh.”
In Joshua Walters’ Ted.com video, he points out the importance of being just crazy enough. He explains that as a performer, the crazier he is on stage, the more entertaining the audience finds his act. He decided to embrace his illness and now walks the line between what he calls mental illness and mental skillness. He points out that there is a movement to reframe the hypomanic part of the illness and to look at it is a positive. He refers to John Gartner’s book The Hypomanic Edge where Gartner writes about how this edge allows people to compete. Walters explains that being this way maybe doesn’t mean you are crazy, but that you are more sensitive to what others can’t see or feel.
In the New York Times article Just Manic Enough: Seeking Perfect Entrepreneurs, author David Segal explained how people could take advantage of being in the bipolar spectrum. Segal noted, “The attributes that make great entrepreneurs, the experts say, are common in certain manias, though in milder forms and harnessed in ways that are hugely productive. Instead of recklessness, the entrepreneur loves risk. Instead of delusions, the entrepreneur imagines a product that sounds so compelling that it inspires people to bet their careers, or a lot of money, on something that doesn’t exist and may never sell.”
Tom Wooten, author founder of the Bipolar Advantage, has made it his “mission to help people with mental conditions shift their thinking and behavior so that they can lead extraordinary lives.” He sees it as being bipolar without requiring the word disorder.
The following is a list of famous successful people who have been labeled as having manic depression: