Homeland/SHO/2011-2017+  (Bipolar Disorder)

Carrie Anne Mathison (Claire Danes), an ambitious, high-ranking CIA operative in charge of recruiting and managing assets. She is assigned to the Counter-terrorism Center in Langely, Virginia.


Carrie lives with the stigma of bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness) and tries to hide it from her coworkers for fear of being fired. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder while an Arabic language student at Princeton University. Carrie’s illness manifests itself by rapid thoughts and a surplus of ideas.

Carrie is exceptionally intelligent. Her long-time mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin), calls her the “smartest and the dumbest fucking person he’s ever known.”

When we first meet Carrie, she is obsessed with Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), a recently returned POW whom the country believes is a hero (like The Manchurian Candidate) but, Carrie’s spider senses believes him to be a terrorist sleeper agent. And, in the end, Carrie’s suspicions were right.

“Carrie Mathison: crazy or brilliant? Or both?”

Carrie’s bipolar disorder causes flights of excitement and euphoria, and, alternately, crushing feelings of sadness and hopelessness, even delusions and hallucinations. She exhibits risk inhibition, the elusiveness of sleep, promiscuity, and alienation of friends and family. When Carrie is depressed, she sleeps for days, waking to darkness and then in a catatonic state, she drinks.

Carrie’s psychiatrist older sister, Maggie (Amy Hargreaves) prescribed drugs like clozapine, lithium, nortriptyline, clonazepam to control her condition, but sometimes Carrie goes off her meds because she feels the need to clear her head and focus on her problems.

But, the lack of meds only exasperate Carries problems to the point she has to go to the hospital. While recuperating, she was obsessed with getting a green pen and in a manic state shouted at the attending staff, “I mean, my kingdom for a fucking green pen!” Besides her medications, Carrie undergoes modern electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) to attain some semblance of stability and responsibility.

Once, Carrie’s adversaries used her illness to undermine her by sabotaging her medication and causing her to relapse.

Luckily, Carrie had a strong support network to help her though her spurts of mental illness. They included her family (her father is also bipolar), her mentor Saul, her understanding colleague Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), and her longtime friend Virgil (David Marciano).

Even U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), an al-Qaeda compromised Prisoner of war who plotted to kill the Vice President had a kind word for Carrie (Brody was hanged in Iran after he assassinated Iranian intelligence chief Akbari).

Note: Meredith Stiehm, one of the show’s lead writers, has a sister Jamie with bipolar disorder. She wrote an op-ed about it in the New York Times.

Other instances of bipolar characters on TV include Jeremy Sisto’s Billy Chenowith on SIX FEET UNDER, 90210’s Erin Silver (Jessica Stroup), ER’s Maggie Wyczenski (Sally Field), FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS’ Waverly Grady (Aasha Davis), Chloe Webb’s Monica Gallagher on SHAMELESS, and NYPD BLUE’s Dr. Jennifer Devlin (Chandra West)

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