Kanye West says having bipolar disorder makes him a 'superhero'

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Kanye West revealed his new album, Ye, in Wyoming on Thursday evening, and people are already buzzing about the lyrics. In the album, West addresses his marriage, the #MeToo movement, controversial comments he has made, and his mental health.

On the track “Extacy” West reveals that he has bipolar disorder and calls the mental health condition his “superpower” before saying, “ain’t no disability — I’m a superhero.”

Bipolar disorder (aka manic-depressive illness) is a brain disorder that can cause a person to have unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out daily tasks, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar disorder is classified by extreme mood swings that cause manias (i.e., highs) and depressive episodes (lows), per the Mayo Clinic. About 2.6 percent of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the National Alliance on Mental Illness says.

People had mixed reactions on social media about West’s view on his mental health condition as a “superpower”:

Apparently psychologists are just as divided. “It’s a double-edged sword,” Eric Youngstrom, PhD, acting director of the Center for Excellence in Research and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. On the one hand, West talking about his mental health “reduces the shame and stigma around it,” Youngstrom says. “The messaging of this is that having a mental health condition doesn’t mean you’re ill or broken, and that’s extremely powerful.”

People with bipolar disorder also tend to be highly creative, Jed Magen, DO, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle, and it could simply be that West wants to celebrate that.

However, bipolar disorder is a serious condition. “It has the potential to shut people down, to destroy lives, and end lives,” Youngstrom says. Referring to bipolar disorder as a superpower could make other people less likely to seek help if they suffer from the condition as well, licensed clinical psychologist John Mayer, PhD, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Saying it is a superpower denies your need to cope and accept your illness,” he says.

The way someone views having mental illness ultimately has to be about balance, Magen says. Viewing it only as a good thing can lessen the likelihood of developing important coping skills to help get through the bad parts of the condition, he says. But, on the flip side, viewing it as only a bad thing isn’t helpful either. “You have to be clear-eyed about it and say there are parts of this that can be helpful to me and clearly there are parts that are unhelpful,” he says. “You have to realistic about it.”

Youngstrom stresses the importance of treatment for bipolar disorder. “If people think they don’t need treatment and only focus on the good, the other side of the coin is going to come around and create major problems very quickly,” he says.

But if you struggle with a mental illness and can see the good in it while still acknowledging the bad, it can be incredibly helpful, Mayer says.

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