Russ Federman is co-author of Facing Bipolar: The Young Adult's Guide to Dealing with Bipolar (New Harbinger Publications), and he also recently wrote an article online called "Graduating with a Bachelor’s in Perseverance: The Challenges of Completing a College Degree with Bipolar Disorder," which I found very interesting.

He pointed out in his article that college is not just about academics. He said that it's a weigh station in between adolescence and early adulthood where students also learn about life.  He then went on to talk about students who also have had to battle bipolar disorder while pursuing their college academic career.

He said, "Now what if you're a student with bipolar disorder that began college enrollment four years ago? But due to recurring episodes of mood instability, you've had to drop a few courses, take some incompletes, perhaps do a medical withdrawal or even remain out for a semester or longer. Essentially, the episodic intensity of your symptoms may have derailed your progression towards a degree and now you're only midway through your third year while many of your friends are about to walk and receive their diploma. It's a frustrating and humbling reality to confront."

He said that on the other hand, it's a reality which is not at all uncommon amongst college students with bipolar disorder. He currently leads a university support group for students with bipolar disorder. There are nine students who regularly attend the weekly group. All but three of them (two being graduate students) have encountered intermittent academic delays as a result of their bipolar symptoms.

He points out that it is painful for those who do need extra time for their progression towards a degree because they frequently feel guilty and ashamed as a function of their delay. They struggle with a sense of inadequacy. They feel as if there's something wrong with them; that they're flawed.

This perception is not entirely inaccurate. Sometimes the depression or elevated mood that comes with bipolar disorder does indeed interfere with academic productivity. When the student is depressed it can feel like they have lost 20 IQ points.

When they are hypomanic (mild mania) or worse, it can be extremely difficult to sustain productivity because of instability associated with elevated mood, accelerated thought, impulsivity, and lack of sleep.  These things can definitely interfere with academic progress.

Federman points out that often, the individual with bipolar disorder may not have much control over the onset of depression or elevated mood cycles; however, that doesn't mean that if they have bipolar disorder, they don't have any responsibility.

He says that maintaining a balanced lifestyle, getting good sleep, staying away from alcohol and drug use and remaining compliant with mental health treatment recommendations are all things the student can do to help maintain stability.