6 TV Shows Featuring Characters With Bipolar Disorder

Last Updated: 6 Aug 2018

Compelling storylines for main television characters with bipolar disorder continue to gain popularity on the small screen, helping to reduce stigma and normalize mental illness.


#1  Degrassi: The Next Generation


The Canadian teen drama has tackled a range of social issues such as AIDS, alcoholism, abortion, bullying, gay rights and eating disorders. No surprise, then, that it’s had characters with bipolar disorder: musician Craig Manning (Jake Epstein), a regular from 2002–2006, and Eli Goldsworthy (Munro Chambers), who was introduced in 2010.


#2  General Hospital


Breaking ground in daytime TV, this ABC soap opera revealed in a 2006 plot arc that longtime character “Sonny” Corinthos has bipolar—as does actor Maurice Benard, who plays the mob boss. The diagnosis provided context for Sonny’s dark moods, unpredictable temper, and self-destructive tendencies dating back to the character’s introduction in 1993. Over the years the show has built a surprisingly realistic portrait of someone with bipolar, touching on his treatment, lapses in medication compliance, and symptomatic episodes. A 2013 storyline revolved around an emotional crisis after Sonny went off his meds.


#3  Homeland


This award-winning and ground-breaking political thriller on Showtime stars Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, a CIA operations officer in counterterrorism. The character’s bipolar disorder was made clear when the show debuted in 2011. It plays an important role in the plot, both indirectly (as when Carrie uses the heightened focus of hypomania to figure things out) and directly (as when she is hospitalized and discredited in Season 3 as part of a plan to infiltrate an Iranian terrorist organization).



 #4  Shameless


The Showtime series features a father (William H. Macy) who is alcoholic while his family of five struggle to get by financially. The comedy-drama also includes an estranged mom and son, Ian (Cameron Monaghan) who both have bipolar. Although the mother is a recurring character, Ian is one of the main characters and his mental illness starts to reveal itself in the fourth season, displaying intense mania, reckless and impulsive behavior, hypersexuality, and devastating depression. The show continued for its seventh season in October of 2016.


#5  Empire


Andre (Trai Byers), the eldest son of the Lyon family has bipolar disorder. Educated and intelligent, he is the CFO of the family business Empire Entertainment, and was portrayed as high functioning by taking his medication to manage his brain-based disorder. However, out of anger toward his father, Andre flushes his medication and spirals into a breakdown. In the first season, Andre’s mother learns of her son’s previous bipolar diagnosis.


#6  Lady Dynamite


The Netflix comedy launched in 2016, starring stand-up comedian/actress Maria Bamford as herself, portraying her misadventures in Los Angeles after spending six months in recovery and attempts to rebuild her life while having consistent flashbacks on Maria’s backstory and her relationships with her family and friends.




  1. Bob – you right 100%, i have bipolar myself, and it take quite a long period for psycho doc to finally make a correct diagnosis, because of my manic periods being implicitly(if its correct) expressed – they was quite less intense (hypomania)

  2. Currently bing watching Homeland On Showtime, as I have access for a month. Love the show & how they portray Carrie’s challenges with bipolar. Not being a doc myself but very familiar & treated for bipolar for thirty plus years, it’s clear Carrie has bp1 & has mania not hypomania. I think ? terms are important & should be used correctly. In this Bphope article they are misused & misstated, should read bp1 & mania!

  3. skam is also a show that handles bipolar disorder really well

  4. You forgot to add The Young And thr Restless. Sharon Newman is Bipolar in the show

  5. Has everyone quickly forgotten ER; with Nurse Aggie’s mother, Abby (played by Sally Field), who was such an embarrassment to her daughter, that Aggie initially denied their relationship to her coworkers? I believe that was the very first “appearance” of bipolar in television history. And Black Box was another medical drama, although a short-lived program, about a female doctor (neurologist) who was bipolar.

    1. Sally Field’s movie performance gave me a visual realization of my sister’s struggles and condition.
      Born a twin ,growing normally but having extreme seeming symptoms of colic, endless nights of crying, until she seemed to outgrow. As she moved closer to puberty, bouts of nervousness, over the smallest things began to intensify. Eventually after a failed marriage, child custody battles and fear of losing her children. One arrest ,a seizure during incarceration, medical examination, diagnosed as bipolar gave her new understanding . However , the Rollercoaster of ups and downs had left many emotional scars. My sister was beautiful , a straight “A” student, never missed a day from school. Seemed like a dream child until the first day she had to miss and went into emotional trauma. So much we didn’t know. Last year we lost her to a cold night in January. SHE SUDDENLY DECIDED to go on a trip. Just left! Three months later the Medical examiner notified her ex husband she had died in abandoned warehouse. The extreme cold night had overcome her. She was where she had lived and been as a child right down the street from a firehouse. Thank you Sally for such a realistic performance helping one of many to understand and not judge.

Load More Comments

Leave a Reply

Please do not use your full name, as it will be displayed. Your email address will not be published.