Bipolar disorder is characterized by two poles forever in opposition and commonly referred to as mania and depression. My personal experience with this disorder is a sort of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are two characters or technically one in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In Stevenson’s novella, Dr Jekyll takes a concoction of chemicals which transform him into the more brutish person of Mr Hyde. The two are polar opposites with Dr Jekyll being rational and calm whereas Mr Hyde is a brute who is quick to anger and violence. The two opposing poles of mania and depression in bipolar disorder come to represent more of a split in personality than in disposition sometimes. Depression or as I like to call it my Dr. Jekyll stage is my resting personality, my baseline if you will, and mania is Mr Hyde. This opposition can often feel like a split in personality or rather a split between my id and ego and superego as characterized by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.
The Psychology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained breaks down the meaning behind “the id” in Sigmund Freud’s mind construct which comprises of the id, ego and superego: “The id “obeys the Pleasure Principle, which says that every wishful impulse must be immediately gratified: it wants everything now. However…the ego, recognizes the Reality principle, which says we can’t have everything we desire, but must take account of the world we live in. The ego negotiates with the id, trying to find reasonable ways to help it get what it wants, without resulting in damage or other terrible consequences” (Collin, 97).
The pull between bipolar depression and mania can often feel like the power struggle between Freud’s id and ego and superego. Mania can feel like pure bliss because the mind has made its mind up to accomplish everything it wants and takes everything it can get. A common symptom of mania is hypersexuality which fits perfectly into the idea of the id obeying the pleasure principle. Manic individuals often seek pleasure sexually with several partners in a short amount of time, and in my personal experience even seeking several different partners in one day. The id essentially wants “to get off” regardless of the ego’s feeling for a more sensible solution such as maintaining a relationship with one individual resulting in multiple sexual encounters safely. When there is a break down between the id and ego consequences occur. Using the example of hypersexuality, one could end up with an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.
“The id, like a sneaky serpent, whispers to us to do what feels good” (Collin, 111). Another symptom of mania is risky behaviors and my id was telling me to partake in them so I could “feel good.” I was starting to take drugs like mdma while on shift at work and at one point during the summer, had over 5 sexual partners in one month. This is similar to how Hyde does what he wants, “…he had been in that night very late, but had gone away in less than an hour; there was nothing strange in that; his habits were very irregular, and he was often absent…” (Stevenson, 22). Hyde stays out late often and is often out so much chasing his id’s whim (such as murdering Sir Danvers Carew) that he is rarely even present. Mania can be compared to a Mr Hyde Complex in that it does what it wants to get what it wants.
In bipolar depression, it is common to reflect on the decisions made my the manic self and regret the behavior displayed during mania. I propose that this depression be referred to as the Dr Jekyll complex and mania as the Mr Hyde complex because of the infamous story written by Robert Louis Stevenson. Dr Jekyll takes a mixture or rather potion to transform into the brute known as Mr Hyde. Hyde performs crass acts including the murder of the well to do Sir Danvers Carew. He clubs him to death with a cane in the middle of the night. Dr Jekyll reflects on his time as Mr Hyde, ” When I would come back from these excursions, I was often plunged into a kind of wonder at my vicarious depravity. This familiar that I called out of my own soul, and sent forth alone to do his good pleasure, was a being inherently malign and villainous; his every act and thought centered on self” (Stevenson, 57). Bipolar depression can be compared to as a Dr Jekyll complex because much in a similar way to how Dr Jekyll reflects on the selfish actions of his alter ego, bipolar depression consists of a time of reflection following the high of mania. It is often a time to reflect on the behavior exhibited during a manic episode and this reflection is often one of the underlying causes of the depression itself. What goes up must ultimately come down, whether its gravity or a mood cycle.
The manic self is a selfish self much like the id in that it seeks purely pleasure. I remember spending all my nights partying and doing drugs so I could feel the pleasurable sensation of euphoria. My quest to feel temporarily good was in conflict with my overall health or my ego, if you will. I did not care about the detrimental effects of pumping my system with copious amounts of cocaine, ecstasy and the occasional mushrooms. I was living life blissfully or so I thought. However, when I came down from my high and became once again Dr Jekyll I would often reflect on my actions while living the night life as Mr Hyde. I would be embarrassed by my behavior at parties where I would become too rowdy and actually initiate physical altercations with other individuals. I would reflect on the bad judge of character I had when pursuing sexual partners and ultimately regret performing the act of sex itself while on these drugs and the high that is mania.
In The Everyday Health Guide To Adult Bipolar Disorder, writer and Ph.D Jon. P. Bloch states: “In the throes of a manic or depressive episode a person with bipolar says or does many things that seem senseless, destructive, or thoughtless to the onlooker -and to the self, once medicated.” (Bloch, 89). Coming down from a manic episode is a lot like coming off a shrooms trip, its painful and often full of remorse. There is a tendency to slide into a bipolar depression following a fit of mania. I call this the Dr Jekyll side of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde syndrome, a.k.a., bipolar disorder. Dr Jekyll acts more rational than Mr Hyde and has to come to terms with the actions taken when under the cloak of mania. In “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” Jekyll describes what its like to experience becoming Mr Hyde or rather manic: “It was Hyde after all, and Hyde alone, that was guilty. Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired; he would even make haste, where it was possible, to undo the evil done by Hyde” (Stevenson, 57). The depressed self often tries to “clean up after” the manic self and undo the actions performed during mania much like Dr Jekyll tries to “undo the evil done by Hyde.” One key example would be paying off credit card or loan debt acquired by the manic self during an episode of mania where overspending is a common symptom.
If left too long, bipolar depression can spiral into something darker which can be compared to the third element of the mind structure Freud proposes which is the superego. The superego can be broken into layman’s terms in The Psychology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained: “the superego speaks through the language of guilt and shame, like a kind of internalized critical parent. We hear the superego when we berate ourselves for thinking or acting a certain way” (Collin, 111). It is common during bipolar depression to feel alienated with guilt and shame particularly if it follows a bout of mania. The individual is ashamed and guilty of the actions taken by the manic self such as spending sprees (where they spend a lot of money in a short amount of time) which are common in people with bipolar disorder. The depressed self may feel guilty that it spent all its savings or money shared with a spouse on most likely trivial things without clearly thinking. I personally felt shame by my manic self’s hypersexuality and was ashamed at how many sexual partners I had in a short amount of time and often the quality of my partner. I sometimes “slept beneath me.”
Bipolar depression akin to the superego can be compared to as a Dr Jekyll complex because Jekyll experiences depressive symptoms such as shutting himself inside and avoiding interactions with even his friends. Dr Jekyll writes the following in a letter to his lawyer friend Mr Utterson, “…I mean from henceforth to lead a life of extreme seclusion; you must not be surprised, nor must you doubt my friendship, if my door is often shut even to you. You must suffer me to go my own dark way. I have brought on myself a punishment and a danger that I cannot name” (Stevenson, 29). He views Hyde as dangerous, and as a punishment for bringing him forth is secluding himself from the outside world. When a bipolar person comes down from mania they often want to punish themselves for behavior exhibited during that period of their life. Bipolar depression following mania may result in the individual “shutting themselves in” as a way to cope with the actions performed during the period of mania. They may feel alienated from their peers and choose to avoid them. Following a mania episode, I once “shut myself in” for a few months and would not leave the house let alone the couch because I was so embarrassed by my manic self’s decisions and actions.
I move that Bipolar Disorder also be referred to as “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Syndrome” because well it’s a sexier name and also because the characteristics of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as compared to bipolar depression and mania. “Dr Jekyll complex” comes to represent bipolar depression in that Dr Jekyll reflects on the actions taken by Mr Hyde or rather mania. He represents symptoms of depression such as remorse, guilt and even shutting himself in from the world much like a depressed person hides in bed. “Mr Hyde Complex” comes to represent mania through Mr Hyde’s unusual and irrational behavior such as staying out at all hours of the night and ultimately the murder of Sir Danvers Carew. I also propose that bipolar depression and mania can be compared to Sigmund Freud’s id, ego and superego. The id representing mania in its quest for pleasure and pleasure alone. The ego and superego comparatively represents bipolar depression in its more rational approach to achieving pleasure and its qualities of guilt and shame.
In conclusion, I propose Bipolar Disorder be compared to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and so I ask you, my readers: “Bipolar Disorder or Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Syndrome?”
Bloch, Jon P. The Everything Health Guide To Adult Bipolar Disorder. Massachusetts:
Adams Media, 2006.
Collin, Catherine, et al. The Psychology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. New York: DK
Fink, Candida, and Joe Kraynak. Bipolar Disorder for Dummies. New Jersey: John Wiley &
Sons, Inc., 2016.
Stevenson, Louis Robert. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
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