What do Carrie Fisher, Linda Hamilton, and Jane Pauley have in common? If you said that in addition to their fame, that they all share a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, you would be correct. Now we can add another celebrity to this list of famous people who have come out about having bipolar disorder. Catherine Zeta-Jones, the famous actress, mother, and wife to Michael Douglas, has recently been in the news for spending five days in a mental health facility receiving treatment for her Bipolar II Disorder.
Catherine Zeta-Jones has had a particularly rough time of it this past year. Her husband, Michael Douglas had been diagnosed with stage four throat cancer. To add to their family stress, Douglas’s ex-wife waged a court battle to seek a share of his earnings from his 2010 movie 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps'.
It is well known that stress is a common trigger for bipolar disorder as well as most other psychiatric conditions. News reports quote Zeta-Jone’s publicist as saying, "After dealing with the stress of the past year, Catherine made the decision to check into a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat her bipolar II disorder.”
The National Institute of Mental Health gives an estimate that as many as 5.7 million American adults have bipolar disorder. The median age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years of age but many people who have this disorder go undiagnosed for many years, sometimes even decades. For example, Linda Hamilton, an actress famous for her role in the Terminator movies, revealed to the press that she lived with untreated bipolar disorder for 20 years before she was diagnosed.
Although there is a difference between a diagnosis of bipolar I and bipolar II, these diagnoses do share some similarities. Marcia Purse, one of our bipolar disorder experts, discusses the common elements of both types of bipolar disorder: “Both, of course, are characterized by mood swings. Both respond to the same types of medications. In both conditions, one end of the spectrum is depression that can range from moderate to crippling.”
One of the key differences between bipolar I and bipolar II is that individuals with bipolar I disorder experience mania while individuals diagnosed with bipolar II experience hypomania. Marcia Purse also points out that: “People with Bipolar 2 Disorder tend to have longer depressive episodes and more of them, and also tend not to function as well between episodes as those with Bipolar 1.”
It is my opinion that it is a very courageous act when a celebrity makes a public revelation that they are battling mental illness. Being in the spotlight must make things all the more difficult for anyone who is trying to cope with a chronic mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder. Yet such public admissions help fight the stigma of mental illness. I am hoping that Catherine Zeta-Jones will provide more details of her battle with bipolar disorder and especially how she copes in the day to day. We wish her the best on her journey towards wellness.