mccallpack101 said: I'm trying to write a character who has manic-depressive disorder. Do you have any ideas on how to portray that?
Okay, I’m going to start with a disclaimer. I’m going to share my personal experience with this disorder, and then provide some links where you can read more about it. I don’t pretend to be an expert.
Manic-depressive disorder is actually an outdated term. It’s now referred to as bipolar disorder. My brother was diagnosed when he was about eighteen. And while his bipolar can influence his behavior, it doesn’t take away traits that were always distinctly him.
Before and after his diagnosis, my brother has been a logical and meticulous individual. He loves puzzles, trivia, statistics, and he can be remarkably funny. He’s not one to tell you he loves you, but he’s very sweet and his desire to be near me and my sister shows us that he loves us. He’ll go through periods where all he’ll do is read, and sometimes he won’t pick up a book for months. He loves music and poetry. These are his qualities outside of the disorder.
My brother gets very antsy, and it’s rare that you’ll find him sitting down. He likes to pace and wander around. He’ll talk to you for a few minutes, go and do something, and then come back and talk a little more. He can talk very fast and loud, and no matter what the subject, he’s very passionate and articulate. A few minutes later, he can get very quiet. You can tell he’s thinking, because he’ll stand with his head down, forehead wrinkled in deep thought. Sometimes he can look angry during these periods, but I know he’s just got a lot going on in his head. It’s best not to engage him in a long conversation during these times. If you try to talk to him, he’ll give you brief, quiet answers, or sometimes he’ll go somewhere that he can be alone. These are his qualities that the disorder brings about.
My brother also fell victim to what is called “self medicating.” He became addicted to alcohol and marijuana. Addiction is another topic entirely, so I won’t go into that. But it is another potential complication in any form of depression, including this one.
My brother’s bipolar disorder makes it difficult for him to hold onto a job. He can’t stay focused for hours at a time, nor can he interact with people for hours at a time. He can’t maintain the discipline it takes to work a job every day. Some individuals with bipolar disorder can, but this is something you’ll have to research and decide what will work best for your character.
The important thing to remember is that individuals with mental disorders have personality traits outside of the disorder. So think about who your character is beforehand and then consider how the disorder will factor in.
You can research it by googling, visiting your library, or look into the official description in the DSM-V. But I think you’ll get the greatest enlightenment by reading case studies. Here are some links:
Followers, if you’ve got your own personal experiences with this disorder, share them with the asker!