Positive aspects of mental illness: a review in bipolar disorder

J Affect Disord. 2011 Feb;128(3):185-90. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2010.03.017. Epub 2010 May 15.


Introduction: There is growing interest to understand the role of positive psychological features on the outcomes of medical illnesses. Unfortunately this topic is less studied in relation to mental health, and almost completely neglected in relation to one of the most common severe psychiatric illnesses, bipolar disorder. Certain specific psychological characteristics, that are generally viewed as valuable and beneficial morally or socially, may grow out of the experience of having this affective disorder.

Objective: We describe the sources, research and impact of these positive psychological traits in the lives of persons with bipolar disorder based on the few published literature available to date. These include, but are not limited to: spirituality, empathy, creativity, realism, and resilience.

Methods: After an extensive search in the literature, we found 81 articles that involve descriptions of positive psychological characteristics of bipolar disorder.

Results: We found evidence for enhancement of the five above positive psychological traits in persons with bipolar disorder.

Conclusions: Bipolar disorder is associated with the positive psychological traits of spirituality, empathy, creativity, realism, and resilience. Clinical and research attention to preserving and enhancing these traits may improve outcomes in bipolar disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Creativity
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Personality
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Spirituality