General Question

wundayatta's avatar

Is there any hard evidence that bipolar folk, on average, are smarter than normal people?

Asked by wundayatta (58714points) September 22nd, 2008

I have often been told that it’s the high IQ disease, but I am skeptical. If it’s anecdotal evidence, there’s room to be wrong. I don’t know if anyone has done a survey that identified how many people are bipolar and what their intelligence is. Too many problems. People might not know they are bipolar. They might be misdiagnosed. They might not want to report their condition. To find a random sample of sufficient people willing to undergo medical and psychological testing would be difficult and very expensive.

But I could be wrong. Perhaps there is hard evidence. Have you seen any?

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32 Answers

Judi's avatar

For sure more creative and more easily think out of the box, but I am not sure it has anything to do with IQ.

loser's avatar

We tend to be more creative, but definitely not smarter. Especially while manic and not taking meds!

Nimis's avatar

Are we talking pre-morbid creativity (and thinking outside the box)?
I’d say most people with mental health issues are “creative and think outside the box”.

Judi's avatar

My son just went to some museum of psychiatry and death sponsored by the Scientologists in Hollywood. I think he was ready to quit his meds. I told him that it may not be perfect but meds are the best thing he has right now. I sure hope he listened. We spent 3 years getting him stable and he is just now starting school next month. I hope it wasn’t a mistake sending him to Hollywood!

Nimis's avatar

Hey, where’d Harp go?

augustlan's avatar

See Nikipedia’s answer in this post. Note: I did not clink on the link to the study, but it seems to address your question.

JackAdams's avatar

Bipolar people are normal people, but with an abnormal affliction.

Judi's avatar

There is a fine line between genus and insanity.

Judi's avatar

and is there really any such thing as “normal?”

JackAdams's avatar

I have no idea.

I have never been accused by anyone, of being the least bit “normal.”

asmonet's avatar

In my experience, they aren’t but that’s just the slice I’ve had encounters with. I second Augustian’s post…. that link = good.

bodyhead's avatar

I have noticed on some of the pharmaceutical adverts that high intelligence is a risk factor for depression. I’m sure they are just trying to hock their pills but it does make one wonder.

Nimis's avatar

Maybe they’re trying to make them less depressed about being depressed.

mccabe's avatar

People who are diagnosed with any mental illness tend to be intelligent enough, wealthy enough and sufficiently connected to the system to seek, accept and make use of psychaitric help.

Nimis's avatar

Relative to the rest of the world perhaps.
But there are a lot of homeless psych clinics too.
Although I technically disagree with you, I just GAd you for bringing up a very valid issue.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I know I’ve met several bipolar people with below average IQ’s.

bodyhead's avatar

@Nimis, he’s right. How many homeless people do you know that are up to date on social issues? I’m willing to bet that none of the homeless people I see regularly go to a psych clinic (but they probably all could benefit from it).

People who live on the streets are often mentally disturbed, true. Even if many of them knew about free psych clinics, a lot of them would refuse to go. If you couple addiction with mental illness, it becomes even less likely that they’ll seek out the help they need.

I don’t know of any free psych clinics in my area and I have all the different media outlets at my disposal. How can I expect a guy with no newspaper, tv, radio, Internet, etc. to know more about what’s going on locally then I do?

Judi's avatar

Not just those who live on the streets, but our prisons are now the new sanatoriums. How much crime could be prevented if mental health care were available to those who can’t hold down a job and get insurance?

tinyfaery's avatar

@ Judi The problem is not Hollywood it’s the Scientologists.

I work with people diagnosed bipolar, and my answer is a very adamant no.

Harp's avatar

Wow, I’ve been looking through lots of studies, most of which are in line with those Niki linked to in the answer augustian referenced.

The best information I’ve found indicates that familial predisposition to affective disorders is a predictor of higher IQ , however a personal history of BP psychosis typically predicts a slight decrement in IQ, especially with duration of illness. This could be attributable to the proven effects of anti-psychotic medications on IQ (poorer scores on measures of general intellectual ability, memory, abstract thinking, and maintenance and shifting of cognitive set).

IQ appears to be relatively stable across the mood swings; there’s only a very slight variation between measurements in the manic and depressive states.

No one disputes that there are serious cognitive impairments associated with BP, but those impairments seem to be related to measures of executive function; verbal IQ measures are less affected.

This study , The Maudsley Bipolar Disorder Project, is the most informative I’ve found.

Nimis's avatar

Removed because of slightly flawed reasoning.

Nimis's avatar

Can we establish whether this question is trying to address pre-morbid or post-morbid IQ?
They’re kind of different.

wundayatta's avatar

Well, if you have an answer for post-morbid, I’d love to hear that.

Pre-morbid seems inherently problematic. I thought I’d heard of estimates, for most of the books I’ve read about it seem to try to buck you up by saying you’re more intelligent, and in my group, everyone repeats that truism all the time. Still, I wonder whether anyone has any kind of defensible evidence about the pre-and-post-morbid comparison.

Judi's avatar

Do you work in the Hollywood area? We’re looking for a good psychiatrist and therapist there since he just moved there. Maybe this should be another question…???

Nimis's avatar

I think I’d be more interested in pre-morbid research.
Though, yes, it seems inherently problematic.

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve looked at all the studies linked to here, and they really didn’t address the issue I’m interested in. I did a search before asking, too, and I came up with nothing. Hmm. May be time to do an academic search.

EmpressPixie's avatar

They get more done. Actually, they get more started when manic. They have more time. So for the people inclined to read and read and read, they read more. For those inclined to create, they create more. Because when they are manic, they… are manic.

wundayatta's avatar

Well, all I know is that the ones I’ve met beleive they are smarter than the average bear. And manias are not fun, and sometimes end them up in the hospital.

Nimis's avatar

People with mental health issues believe a lot of things, no?
What did you think of them?
And what did you think of them before their mental health issues kicked in?

wundayatta's avatar

Unfortunately, I didn’t know them before their mental illnesses. They are the most fun group of people I’ve had the pleasure to be with in a long time, and they do seem very sharp, full of puns and jokes, well educated, and nimble of wit, despite their meds. It’s very hard to keep up with them, and I don’t usually have that problem.

nikipedia's avatar

@daloon: What do you mean by “pre-morbid”, exactly? Bipolar disorder has a strong genetic component, so there may not actually be a pre-morbid period in the manner that I understand the word.

wundayatta's avatar

@Nikipedia: Pre-morbid, to me, practically speaking, means before diagnosis. How can we know how many people have it if they haven’t been diagnosed? I suppose the proper use may be before the onset of the disease, but I’m making the assumption (which is often not true, but what else can I do?) that the disease didn’t start much before diagnosis.

Do diagnoses catch all those with the disease? If not, we can’t use it as a way to estimate the number of folks who have it, but have not yet been diagnoses. Also, not everyone with the genes for it, gets it. I might have lived my whole life without getting it, except for some stressors in my life that caused it to express itself. It’s highly unusual to get diagnosed at age 52, and never have had any kind of episode before.

Anyway, depending on how you look at it, you’re right; there may not be a pre-morbid period.

I have another condition that is confused like this. I carry the gene for Cystic Fibrosis. At first they called me a carrier, because I don’t have the full blown disease that usually kills you in your 20s. Later on they told me they could diagnose me as having CF, since I had an important symptom. I was born that way. I didn’t find out about it until I was past 30, trying to have children. Was my pre-morbid period before I was conceived? Or was it when we found out I had congenital absence of vas?

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