Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Dennis Do spent two years studying bipolar disorder at Stanford Bipolar Disorders Clinic and is now a published author of Episode Accumulation Associated With Hastened Recurrence and Delayed Recovery in Bipolar Disorder. Currently in medical school, Dennis shows how important clinical research is for future mental health care.

As the Clinic Research Coordinator, Dennis recruited patients, held office visits, and performed data analysis. He studied recurrence in bipolar patients and how it affected patient recovery (more on the paper above). On why he decided to join the Bipolar Disorders Clinic, he responded:

The driving force behind my decision to get into psychiatry was it’s ambiguity in my life.

He continued: “The term bipolar is used so causally but I didn’t really know anything about it. I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to learn about it so I took it right away. Coming from a very asian background, it’s tough to describe the illness to my family. It’s not depression, but sometimes it is. It’s not bouncing off the walls with energy…but sometimes it is. I think that’s one of the problems with bipolar (mental health in general): the symptoms are so variable and can’t really be measured.”

One of the important things he learned from his research is the idea of “kindling” or “disease begets disease.”

“The doctors I worked with really drove home the idea that with each subsequent manic/hypomanic/depressive episode, the next episode would hit harder and quicker. A couple other papers we worked on also noted that having other mental health issues like Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) made the time between episodes shorter…

So as providers and patients, it’s important to manage symptoms and take preventative measures ASAP when working with bipolar disorder patients. I think this applies to any disease management too.”

The key point in mental health is prevention and proactive care upon diagnosis. At Subconscious, we hope that open discussions on various topics of mental health would foster a community in which people feel safe talking about their feelings, symptoms, and their journey through recovery. Through these conversations, we could prevent and be better prepared for mental illness.  Dennis agrees, and emphasizes its application on other diseases as well.

Through Dennis, we hope to inspire other future doctors and scientists who are interested in understanding mental illness and improving care for mental health. His passion for research to find answers to his ambiguity shows that it’s never too early to start making a difference.


Interview with Dennis Do was conducted by Becky Moon. Please contact becky@subconscious.org with any questions.