Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bipolar Musicians: Kurt Cobain

Bipolar Opposites Attract - Kurt Cobain, from "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter."

  Time magazine included Kurt Cobain in a 2002 list of “manic geniuses” who made great contributions to music, art, or literature.  Manic Depression is what Bipolar Disorder used to be called back in the day.

  However, it's not clear if Kurt Cobain was ever officially diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. As someone with Bipolar disorder I can see it in his writings. We'll get into that later. 

 A lot of what we know comes from his cousin, Bev Cobain, a registered nurse with a background working in mental health:

"Kurt was diagnosed at a young age with Attention Deficit Disorder [ADD], then later with bipolar disorder...Bipolar illness has the same characteristics as major clinical depression, but with mood swings, which present as rage, euphoria, high energy, irritability, distractibility, overconfidence, and other symptoms. As Kurt undoubtedly knew, bipolar illness can be very difficult to manage, and the correct diagnosis is crucial. Unfortunately for Kurt, compliance with the appropriate treatment is also a critical factor" - Bev Cobain

  Attention Deficit disorder and Bipolar can often be confused and their symptoms often overlap. I was originally misdiagnosed as having ADD myself before I was eventually and correctly diagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder.
  Drug abuse is also common with Bipolar Disorder. Cobain's biography Heavier then Heaven writes about several overdoses that Kurt had before his death. According to statistics presented by the American Journal of Managed Care:
  • About 56 percent of individuals with bipolar who participated in a national study had experienced drug or alcohol addiction during their lifetime.
  Suicide is also common with Bipolar Disorder. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry  At least 25% to 50% of patients with bipolar disorder also attempt suicide at least once.

Kurt Cobain wrote a song called, "I Hate Myself and Want to Die."

 He also wrote a song called "Lithium," which is a popular drug used to treat Bipolar Disorder. The lyrics resemble the highs and lows that characterize being Bipolar: The feelings of no self worth and loneliness that is depression and the elevated mood and excitement that one experiences in mania.

I'm so happy...I'm so ugly...I'm so lonely...I'm so excited...I'm so horny...- Lithium

 His two biographies, Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana & Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain both tell stories of his moodiness, depression and also higher more elevated moments of extreme creativity. 

 The life of Kurt Cobain shows us the immense creativity that can come from having Bipolar Disorder. Yet at the same time it also shows us the disaster that Bipolar Disorder is when it's left untreated. 

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1 comment:

  1. Kurt changed my life with his insightful and surreal music and lyrics. I only wished he could have stuck around to make more to listen to for future generations. I was compelled to compose a portrait of him In Memoriam recently on the anniversary of his death on my artist’s blog at Drop in and tell me your memories of his music and how it’s affected you.


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