Is bipolar disorder a new illness? Far from it!  The disorder is probably one of the oldest known mental disorders ever recorded, going back as far as the second century A.D.

 

Back then, a man named Aretaeus first recognized manic and depressive symptoms and believed they were linked. People largely ignored his findings, however.  Then in 1650, Richard Burton (a scientist) wrote a book called The Anatomy of Melancholia, focusing on depression. He was credited as the one who recognized depression as a mental illness, and his findings are still being used by many people in mental health today.

 

In 1854, a man named Jules Falret coined the term folie circulaire (meaning “circular insanity”), which established a link between moments of "heightened moods" and moments of depression.  He recognized this to be different from the simple depression that Burton had written about. 

 

Francois Baillarger, characterized the depressive phase of the illness.  This allowed the illness to receive its own classification from all the other mental disorders of that time. 

 

Emil Kraepelin established the term “manic-depressive” in 1913, doing a study about the effects of depression, with a small portion of his research devoted to the manic state of the illness.

 

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders published an article in 1952 where the genetics behind what was then still known as “manic depression” were analyzed, revealing the likelihood of manic depression running in families who already had the disorder.

 

Many people with the disorder were institutionalized and given little financial help during much of the 1960s, because Congress refused to recognize manic depression as a real illness.

 

It took all the way until the early 1970s for standards to be established and laws to be enacted to help people who had this disorder.

 

In 1979, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) was founded, which continues to this day to provide resources and help to individuals suffering from mental illnesses.

 

The term "manic depressive disorder" was replaced by "bipolar disorder" as a diagnostic term (found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders – the DSM-III at that time) in 1980. 

 

Shortly after that, due to research, doctors were allowed to distinguish the difference between adult bipolar disorder and childhood bipolar disorder (also called pediatric bipolar disorder or early-onset bipolar disorder).