About Elliot

I’m Elliot Gavin Keenan.

I’m an author of creative nonfiction and a PhD student at UCLA, where I research bipolar disorder and autism. I’m autistic (professionally diagnosed ages 6-7) and I’ve lived with bipolar 1 disorder since childhood, as well as having several other diagnoses. My interests include Pokémon, strategy games, and cats.

My research looks at quantitative models to explain patterns of affect (emotions/mood) and cognition in the contexts of conditions I’ve experienced (so far, autism and bipolar disorder are my main focuses).

In my first study, I found that higher levels of repetitive cognition (“sticky thinking”) seen in autism were associated with more depression symptoms, just as one would expect to find with rumination (which is a specific type of negative repetitive thinking) — even though the sticky thinking we saw in people with more autistic traits was not necessarily negative.

In my sample, the higher levels of sticky thinking explained higher levels of depression seen in people with more autistic traits. I concluded that future studies should examine the role of sticky thinking in depression when it affects autistic people — high levels of sticky thinking may predispose autistic people to develop depression, and/or an increase in sticky thinking may be a sign of depression in autistic people.

My current research attempts to predict mood in bipolar disorder using an app called Shiny Mood.

Facts about me:

  • Kay Redfield Jamison (author of An Unquiet Mind) is one of my personal heroes. She inspired me to become a psychologist.
  • My favorite color is blue, specifically lighter shades of it.
  • One of my favorite books is Bluets by Maggie Nelson.
  • I have a lazy cat named Tarot.
  • My favorite Pokémon games are HeartGold/SoulSilver, Black/White, XD: Gale of Darkness, and the Pokémon Trading Card Game for Game Boy Color.
  • My prized possession is a genuine Pikachu Game Boy SP sold to me at Toys R Us in 2005. I played it all the time as a kid, but it is still in excellent condition.
  • I play Commander/EDH format Magic: the Gathering at a comic book shop in Santa Monica, where I usually play Niv-Mizzet, Parun or Animar, Soul of Elements.
Others I didn’t include here are Smeargle, Noivern, and Wartortle.

I think that I still have it in my heart someday to paint a bookshop with the front yellow and pink in the evening…like a light in the midst of the darkness.

Vincent van Gogh