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May 22, 2009

The Bipolar Empath
by Dr. Theresa M. Kelly

The most common psychiatric diagnosis among those with extraordinary empathic skills is Bipolar Disorder. Also known as manic depression, manic-depressive disorder and bipolar affective disorder, this diagnosis describes a category of mood disorders. In the case of many empaths, there are presences of a multitude of episodes of abnormally elevated mood throughout their lives. Moods bounce back and forth from major depression to times of mania or experience both emotions simultaneously. Episodes of one mood or another can last days, months, even years at a time. In extreme cases, empaths can experience psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. Depressive episodes are associated with distress and disruption leading to elevated risk of suicide. Manic episodes are associated with creativity, goal striving and positive achievements, though usually acted out without forethought or logical thinking.

Empaths tend to have mild to severe bipolar disorders throughout childhood and adulthood. Periods of heightened emotional stress can accelerate the disorder as well as increases in empathic sensitivity. Increased empathic sensitivity can lead to stronger and more frequent episodes just as periods of heightened emotional stress can increase empathic sensitivity. While this disorder may always be an underlying part of the empath, there are treatments that can help bring the disorder into varying levels of control. Treatments include psychological based behavior therapy and stress management and psychiatric based medicative treatments. Empaths are encouraged to meditate on their empathic skill as a means to focus their transmission and reception of emotions as to spare themselves and others of unnecessary additional stress. Some empaths may find control through meditation via attempting to narrow the reception/transmission channel that they use to send and receive emotional packages of information. Ignoring a condition such as bipolar disorder will only lead to increased complications, sensitivity and frequency of episodes.

Common signs and symptoms of mania include:

  • Feeling euphoric and optimistic or experience extreme irritability
  • Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs about one’s abilities or powers
  • Sleeping very little, but feeling extremely energetic
  • Talking so rapidly that others can’t keep up
  • Racing thoughts
  • Highly distractible, unable to concentrate
  • Impaired judgment and impulsiveness
  • Acting recklessly without thinking about the consequences
  • Delusions and hallucinations (in severe cases)

Bipolar disorder not only affects mood, but also energy level, judgment, memory, concentration, appetite, sleep patterns, sex drive, and self-esteem. Additionally, bipolar disorder has been linked to anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, migraines, and high blood pressure. Empaths with any degree of bipolar disorder can improve with treatment and lead normal lives.



  • Dominic Lam, Kim Wright, Neil Smith (August 2002), "Dysfunctional assumptions in bipolar disorder." Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 79, Issue 1.
  • National Institute of Mental Health -


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Posted: May 22, 2009 2:50pm


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Theresa M Kelly MsD
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North Charleston, SC, USA
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