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Princess Leia’s Death Casts Spotlight on Bipolar Disorder

The recent death of Carrie Fisher, who portrayed the popular “Star Wars” character Princess Leia, made international headlines, not just because of her career, but also her very public struggle with bipolar disorder. Fisher never shied away from her bipolar disorder, and was very vocal about it. She wrote books on her diagnosis and also spoke extensively in public about the disease.

Fisher was open not only about her bipolar disorder, but also mental illness in general, and the fact that millions of Americans suffer from some kind of psychological disorder. According to her 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking, as many as one in four Americans suffer from some kind of mental disorder.  Living with these conditions can be extremely challenging to say the least.  Fisher in her memoir and her public appearances raised awareness about the condition, and advised fellow sufferers about managing their symptoms.

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that is characterized by extreme fluctuations between two extreme emotional states.  If untreated, many persons suffer from either extreme sadness or extreme exhilaration.  When in a depressive state, a person may become detached from the outside world, lethargic, and may find it very difficult to muster interest in anything.  Conversely, when suffering from extreme mania, a person may feel exhilarated, is constantly excited, may speak rapidly, and may have difficulty sleeping.

Persons who suffer from bipolar disorder may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Bipolar disorder is included in Section 12.04, Mental Disorders-Affective Disorders of the Bluebook. In order to qualify for benefits, an applicant must provide evidence that he or she has suffered from bipolar disorder for at least two years, and that they are currently under treatment for the condition. You may also have to provide evidence about the severity of the symptoms, and how they affect your ability to function normally in a work environment.