Robin Williams and Bipolar – Manic Depression….Knowing The Symptoms

Robin Williams, the comedian who evolved into the surprisingly nuanced, Academy Award-winning actor, imbuing his performances with wild inventiveness and a kind of manic energy, died on Monday at his home in Tiburon, Calif., north of San Francisco. He was 63.

Mr. Williams’s publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said in a statement that Mr. Williams “has been battling severe depression.”

In 2006, he checked himself into the Hazelden center in Springbrook, Ore., to be treated for an addiction to alcohol, having fallen off the wagon after some 20 years of sobriety.

He later explained in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that this addiction had not been “caused by anything, it’s just there.”

“It waits,” Mr. Williams continued. “It lays in wait for the time when you think, ‘It’s fine now, I’m O.K.’ Then, the next thing you know, it’s not O.K. Then you realize, ‘Where am I? I didn’t realize I was in Cleveland.’ ”

As far back as 1980 I recall working in an environment of engineering professionals while I was an undergraduate.  There was one particular engineer who would come into the work environment some days talking loud, ordering everyone around, challenging methodology of workers tests, threatening to fire individuals and just making everyone including the owners very tense and at the same time very anxious.  Well the truth is he made almost everyone tense and very anxious.  By then I was in my final year of undergrad and was enrolled in a senior level psychology course that examined abnormal behaviors.  After observing the strange acting engineer for about a week it occurred to me that he was playing out in real life what I had been studying.  Without much detail I had been studying what is called “Affective Disorders”, which are a cluster of clinical conditions that have a well pronounced disturbance to one’s normal functioning of “mood”.  By 1980 I understood that every man, woman, boy, girl had some level of emotion that conveyed to others and the individual their personality as well as how they cognitively processed the world.  This is clinically called one’s “mood”.  Also it should be remembered that “mood” can range from normal to high to low, much like one’s blood pressure.  When “mood” is high a person is considered “manic” and is observed having grandiose thinking, jumping from idea to idea, not needing much sleep, expanded or overrated self-esteem which will exhaust individuals attempting to interrelate or interact with them.  When “mood” is low a person is considered “depressed” and may be observed showing low energy levels, a loss of interest in things they previously were hyped about, show difficulty focusing, a decreased appetite and even thoughts about dying and killing themselves.  When “mood” is normal a person is seen as having a balanced or good day.   Only about 25% of individuals who experience “depression” actually receive treatment, yet it is when people are in the “depressive mood” that they are more likely to commit suicide.  It is projected that upward of 60% of individuals who go into remission for either bipolar or just depression (unipolar) are likely to have reoccurring episodes.  

Because suicide rates are higher when individuals are in a depressed mood, listed below are Criteria that must be present over at least a two week time span in individuals.  At least four (4) of the symptoms listed below must be present according to the American Psychiatric Association:  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

1.  Poor appetite or dramatic loss of weight (if not dieting)

2.  inability to sleep or sleeping too much

3.  extreme agitation or retarded psychomotor response

4.  loss of interest and pleasure in normally fulfilling activities, decreased sexual drive

5.  loss of energy; fatigue

6.  feelings of inappropriate guilt, self-reproach, feelings of worthlessness

7.  complaints of diminished ability to think or concentrate

If you suffer from depression seek help and let others know about your reoccurring condition.  Invite them to reach out to you when you appear to be down or not functioning properly.  Seek ongoing medical and clinical care.  Learn various coping skills such as relaxing, prayer, forcing yourself to not go into isolation and withdrawal from others. 

8.  reoccurring thoughts of death, suicidal ideas, wishing to be dead, or suicidal attempts

For additional information about Manic Depression and Bipolar Disorder go to:


One Response

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