I've recently read this study An investigation of mental imagery in bipolar disorder: Exploring “the mind's eye” .

One interesting thing in it is that "the BD group performed worse on the verbal fluency test". This goes directly in opposition to the general belief of BD being related to good verbal skills. This is something I considered fact as BP seems to be fairly common in professional writers. I can't find the source but I remember I once read that about 20% of writers had BP. It seems like an exaggeration and something quite impossible to measure, but my point is that the myth is strong and sometimes even includes statistics.

I am under the impression that these verbal skills might come from a more visual approach in a BP mind. What we can tell for certain from this study and others is that a strong tendency towards mental imagery seems to have some relation to emotion. "Overall, our study indicates that mental imagery characteristics representing features of greater emotionality and intensity (e.g., greater intrusive imagery impact, vividness of negative images, and sense of realness of images) may represent a marker for general emotional psychopathology and general functioning".

I am particularly interested in the way the whole cognition can be affected by this. Some people claim to be very visual, while others don't. I am thinking of, not only memory but also on-the-go conceptualization.

What I wonder is how this relates to aphantasia. I believe they have it easier to overcome emotional distress. My question is pretty straight forward, though. Is it possible to have both BD and aphantasia? It would also be interesting to know how aphantasia relates to other disorders or even common phenomena such as anxiety.


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Aphantasia can include senses other than visual, and that rather than being an on/off condition its effect covers a wide range, from the briefest flashes of image through "photographic" memory.

Excerpt from the short story, "Dreaming is a Private Thing" — Isaac Asimov, 1955

Now when I think of a steak I think of the word. Maybe I have a quick picture of a brown steak on a platter. Maybe you have a better pictorialization of it and you can see the crisp fat and the onions and the baked potato. I don't know. But a dreamer … He sees it and smells it and tastes it and everything about it, with the charcoal and the satisfied feeling in the stomach and the way the knife cuts through it and a hundred other things all at once. Very sensual. Very sensual. You and I can't do it.

Obviously the speaker is strongly aphantasic: "I think of the word.".

You said,

My question is pretty straight forward, though. Is it possible to have both BD and aphantasia?

Yes, there's no reason one should prevent the other.

You also said,

I believe [aphantasiacs] have it easier to overcome emotional distress... It would also be interesting to know how aphantasia relates to other disorders or even common phenomena such as anxiety.

The inability to directly recall sensory memories has a definite effect on one's current mental state.

In physical terms, some people can vividly recall the pain of breaking an arm, while others can recall only that it was painful. Similarly people can be very embarrassed about things that happened years ago, while others simply remember that they were embarrassed (and might even end up amused by the thought).

That indirection damps much of the distress that such memories can cause.

If someone betrayed you years ago, you will remember the betrayal, and you will remember that you felt awful about it, but you won't re-experience the emotion itself.

One may or may not resist change, but once something becomes inevitable, an aphantasiac will often very rapidly adjust to the new situation and accept it.

Feelings of emotional distress and anxiety are just as real as for anyone else while the cause is ongoing, but once the event is over and becomes a memory, most of its power is immediately lost. (Psychotherapy itself often involves removing the power that memories have over one's current mood.)

  • $\begingroup$ Aside: I just found that Asimov himself had aphantasia. That explains why he was my favourite author. His non-fiction always stuck to the essentials, and his fiction described things with almost no specific details, exactly the way I would remember them had I been there myself. I had no problem following it when the hero picked up a framnibulator; I simply retained that concept and added details from the context in which it was used. To me, authors that described rooms and people and things were just wasting my time with noise. But others found his writing boring for the exact opposite reason. $\endgroup$ Jan 2, 2023 at 0:25
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    $\begingroup$ While I edited your answer for improved formatting and clarity, all answers must provide reputable sources of information to back claims. Please can you back each claim with reputable sources of information? This not only separates factual answers from opinion, but it also provides further reading. $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2023 at 6:16
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers, I'd love to be able to provide citations, but the field is rather sparse except for individual testimonies. It's hardly a deadly disease, and it can even be seen as an advantage. ¶ In case it's not obvious, my claims are my own experience. (E.g. until I knew about the condition, I always thought it strange that other people could be so strongly affected by past events. But now I understand what's wrong with them. :-) ¶ If the answer gets deleted, I won't argue. $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2023 at 14:47

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