Bewitchingly Bipolar: The Character of Helda in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch

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When asked by the Canadian TV Guide to name the most common message she receives in her fan mail, actress Caroline Rhea stated, “I get ones that say, ‘Dear Aunt Hilda, I'm crazy too’”(“Magic,” 1999). Rhea, who plays Hilda Spellman on the wildly popular television series Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, does not deny her character’s oftentimes unconventional behaviors. In fact, both the actress and her fans adore Aunt Hilda Spellman due to the character’s charmingly ecstatic and immature personality. Hilda’s personality is not solely a defining feature, however; it is a result of her mental illness. Although it was never stated on the show, Hilda Spellman suffers from Bipolar II disorder, but it is treatable and will not hinder her ability to function in the future. According to authors Dennis Coon and John O. Mitterer (2009) in their textbook Psychology: Modules for Active Learning, Bipolar II disorder is characterized by recurrent depressive episodes followed by manic episodes in which the affected person is, “excessively cheerful” (p.564). Called hypomania, the manic episodes endured by a person with Bipolar II are generally milder than the manic episodes of a person with Bipolar I (p. 564). The periods of intense happiness that Hilda Spellman undergoes can be categorized as hypomania, thus causing her to have Bipolar II disorder. In his journal, “Bipolar II Disorder: Epidemiology, Diagnosis, and Management,” author Franco Benazzi (2007) states that, “Hypomania, according to DSM-IV, requires… decreased need for sleep, increased talking, racing thoughts, distractibility… and excessive involvement in risky activities” (p. 727). Hilda Spellman frequently talks too fast and often succumbs to her own racing thoughts. In the Sabrina, t... ... middle of paper ... ...sis and management. CNS Drugs, 21(9), 727-740. Beyer, J. L., Kuchibhatla, M., Cassidy, F., & Krishnan, K. R. (2008). Stressful life events in older bipolar patients. International Journal Of Geriatric Psychiatry, 23(12), 1271-1275. Coon, D., & Mitterer J. O. (2009). Psychology: Modules for active learning (12th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning. Craddock, N. N., Jones, L. L., Jones, I. R., Kirov, G. G., Green, E. K., Grozeva, D. D., ... Ferrier, I. N. (2010). Strong genetic evidence for a selective influence of GABAA receptors on a component of the bipolar disorder phenotype. Molecular Psychiatry, 15(2), 146-153. Hart, P. J. (Producer). (1996). Sabrina, the teenage witch. [Television series]. Los Angeles: Paramount Domestic Television. (Taken from episodes 1, 2, 10, 22, 72, 79, 110) Magic formula. (1999, April 24). TV Guide (Canada), 23, 21-24.

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