Are there successful people who live with bipolar?

People with bipolar disorder can live a good life, be happy and be successful—just like anybody else. In fact, you might be surprised to find out that some of the greatest and most creative minds have had bipolar disorder. Some of their greatest work has been done during their darkest times.

Living with bipolar disorder can feel lonely and discouraging. By hearing the stories of other people with bipolar disorder, you can begin to see your own experience echoed in theirs. You realize you’re not alone. You are part of a community. You start to think “If they can do it, I can too.”

You belong to a brilliant community.

Jess Y, New Mexico

Here are some people with bipolar disorder who not only achieved great success while dealing with the disease, but also used their success as a platform to help others.

Carrie Fisher, actress

At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.

Carrie Fisher

Many recognize Carrie Fisher for her role as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy. But for the mental health community, she was one of the leading activists in the fight against the stigma of bipolar disorder. She spoke candidly about the illness in a way that people needed to hear and brought the conversation into the spotlight. Through her books, stage shows, and interviews she told the truth about bipolar disorder, and showed through infectious humor that people with it are just like everyone else. Carrie Fisher lived by example, proving that anyone with bipolar disorder can live well and thrive. Sadly, Carrie passed away in 2016—but her legacy lives on as she continues to inspire others who share the illness.

Demi Lovato, singer and actress

I think scars are like battle wounds – beautiful, in a way. They show what you’ve been through and how strong you are for coming out of it.

Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato is well known for her career as a singer and actress. As of late, Demi has emerged as an outspoken advocate for bipolar disorder. She works with organizations, including Mental Health America, through her initiative Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health, which aims to support individuals with mental illness and encourage them to open up and seek help.

Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and writer

The entertainment industry isn’t the only place where people with bipolar disorder can be successful. In addition to a long career as a clinical psychologist, Dr. Jameson is the author of An Unquiet Mind, a memoir of her own experiences with severe bipolar disorder. Many people have identified with her stories of year-long depressions and frightening psychotic episodes. Her book also discusses how she came to terms with needing to take lithium [link] for the rest of her life, and how she ultimately learned to be grateful for it rather than resentful of it.

Here are some more successful people who live or lived with bipolar disorder:

Note: Some of these people lived before bipolar disorder had been recognized and defined.  However, their historical biographies include many symptoms of bipolar disorder.

  • Ada Lovelace, considered the first ever computer programmer
  • Lynn N. Rivers, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • Dave Dahl, inventor of Dave’s Killer Bread
  • Russell Brand, comedian and actor
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme, actor
  • Pete Wentz, musician
  • Vincent van Gogh, painter
  • Edgar Allen Poe, writer
  • Virginia Woolf, writer
  • Winston Churchill, politician
  • Ludwig van Beethoven, musician
  • More examples from Wikipedia

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  1. Bipolar Disorder

Take a Bipolar Test

The Bipolar Test is for people experiencing mood swings—unusual or extreme shifts in mood and energy.