What does bipolar disorder feel like? Can it explain Kanye’s behavior?

Erratic behavior by the musician formerly known as Kanye West has spurred widespread discussion on social media about the condition

Bipolar disorder can include periods of depression and periods of mania at irregular times in a person’s life. (Photo illustration by The Washington Post: Sphere by Jonathan Knowles/Getty Images; Explosion by Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty Images)

The rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, has a history of commenting on mental illness through his art. On a 2018 album cover, West included a telling quote: “I hate being Bi-Polar it’s awesome.” In the song “Yikes,” he called bipolar disorder his “superpower.”

More recently, West has been in the news for erratic behavior including antisemitic posts on Instagram and Twitter. The comments, as well as other displays — including a rambling appearance with conservative talk-show host Tucker Carlson and sporting a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt during Paris Fashion Week — have spurred a number of social media discussions about whether the behavior could be explained by mental illness.

While there is no way to know whether West’s behavior or comments are related to his mental health, most experts agree that people with bipolar disorder can behave erratically and may at times lose their “filter” and say or do socially inappropriate things.

The Washington Post spoke to psychiatrists, therapists and people diagnosed with bipolar disorder and asked them what it feels like to live with the condition, how it is treated and how much it can affect a person’s behavior. Here’s what they said.

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