“The idea that genius and madness are linked dates back at least as far as the ancient Greeks” begins this recent Nature study investigating whether bipolar disorder is more common in highly intelligent people. There has been no scarcity of anecdotes and biographies that connect extreme mood swings and creative/cognitive ability. In contrast, the scientific evidence is meager.

In this study, Rasmussen et al conducted a prospective study that analyzed 1 million Swedish men conscripted for military service. They then measured the correlation between intelligence and risk of hospitalisation for bipolar disorder. At first glance, risk of hospitalization with any form of bipolar disorder decreased as intelligence increased. However, when the authors restricted the sample to men with no psychiatric comorbidity, risk of hospitalization was elevated among the most intelligent, especially among those with the highest verbal or technical ability. Thus, it was shown that (at least in men) high intelligence may dispose one to pure bipolar disorder, which entails no psychiatric comorbidity.

by Jasmine Yan, AME

Image credit: health.com

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  1. My brother is severely bipolar and extremely smart. He spouts engineering theories, he can build anything, and is an savant artist. He remembers pretty much everything he reads but lives in his car. He is about 65 now and refuses to take any medication and has threatened family members who want him to get help.

    He always had anger issues as a child but the bipolar symptoms didn’t really show up until he was in his mid 20’s. He was given an IQ test when he was in the Air Force and scored extremely high.

    So in his case, I would say intelligence and bipolar go together.

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