When treated, often with medication, bipolar disorder doesn’t have to interfere with everyday life. But periodically, particularly when the disorder occurs in conjunction with substance abuse or requires hospitalization, it can become disruptive and, in the case of a number of celebrities, propel a diagnosis into the public eye.
Other famous faces have come forward in memoirs or on behalf of raising awareness for the undiagnosed. But whether or not they’ve been forthcoming about the condition from the start, having these high-profile names associated with bipolar disorder has only made it easier to talk about this much-stigmatized disease.
However, that doesn’t mean the stigma is gone completely. “While it can help to put a human face on mental illness, as many prominent people with bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders and other conditions have courageously done, most stigma derives from behaviors that are enigmatic or frightening,” says HuffPost Mental Health Editor Lloyd I., Sederer, M.D., Medical Director of the NYS Office of Mental Health. “When treatment is effective and problem behaviors are eliminated that will be when we see the end of stigma.”
Here are some of the celebrities who have confirmed their diagnoses.
Lark Voorhies The “Saved By The Bell” actress’s mother told People magazine Voorhies has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, after video from an interview taped for Yahoo! in which Voorhies seemed to struggle through her answers went viral, ABC News reported. “There are things that have traumatized her,” her mother Tricia told People, but the actress maintains that she isn’t sick.
Jesse Jackson Jr. The Mayo Clinic released a statement in August that the congressman and son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson was receiving treatment for bipolar II depression, after taking an unexplained medical leave two months earlier. His wife had previously called his depression “debilitating”, the AP reported. The Mayo Clinic has stated he was responding well to treatment
Demi Lovato After spending three months in a rehab facility for bulimia, anorexia, cutting and depression, 18-year-old Lovato also announced she’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Lovato told People magazine she didn’t know she had the disorder until she entered treatment. Lovato told AOL Music she plans to continue speaking out about her experience to help others. “I feel like it’s no coincidence that God put me through all of this and has also given me the voice that I have. I feel like my purpose on earth is much greater than just being a singer, a musician or actress. I think it’s to reach out to people and to raise awareness of these issues that not many people speak about.”
Catherine Zeta-Jones Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones publicly disclosed her diagnosis after seeking treatment. Though she wasn’t initially going to come public (on an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” husband Michael Douglas said he suspects someone at the hospital leaked information to the press), Zeta-Jones has nonetheless voiced her support for those who also suffer from bipolar disorder. In an interview with People, Zeta-Jones said there is “no need to suffer silently,” and that if her speaking up encourages just one person to seek help of their own, then her experience was worth it.
Jean-Claude Van Damme The action star told E! Online he was being treated for bipolar disorder with the drug sodium valproate, Everyday Health reported. “Since I’m doing that it’s, like, BOOM! In one week, I felt it kick in. All the commotion around me, all the water around me, moving left and right around me, became like a lake,” he said.
Amber Portwood The reality TV star has experienced a number of high-profile ups and downs on camera. She told People magazine that she takes medication for bipolar disorder after being diagnosed in 2008. “I don’t think I’m bipolar, to be honest with you,” she said at the time. “I’m just really outgoing. I think everybody thinks they’re bipolar these days. You’re a teenager, you have hormones. You’re gonna switch up every two seconds!” But she spoke more vulnerably about her diagnosis later with E! News, saying “I struggle with it. I hate it. I grieve over it” of her diagnosis.
Sinead O’Connor In 2007, Grammy-winning artist Sinead O’Connor appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to talk about her battle with bipolar disorder. She said receiving treatment for the disorder made her reborn and gave her at chance at building a new life.
Michael Angelakos In July, after canceling a number of the band’s tour dates, Passion Pit’s lead singer told Rolling Stone he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 18 and was experiencing a particularly debilitating bout of depression when the band was set to tour, HuffPost reported. “My depression was so bad three weeks ago when we had to cancel everything — people don’t understand this. People don’t understand that it’s not just debilitating; it’s all-encompassing,” he told Rolling Stone.
Carrie Fisher Fisher first publicly discussed her experience with bipolar disorder with Diane Sawyer in 2000, telling Sawyer she was convinced for many years she was a drug addict before finding out she was manic depressive. Fisher has since been very open about her struggle with the disorder, including the time she spent in a mental hospital following a particularly difficult episode. “At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring lots of stamina and even more courage,” Fisher wrote in her 2008 memoir “Wishful Drinking.” “So if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”
Patty Duke The Academy Award-winning actress was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 35 years old. In an interview with “Everyday Health,” Duke said the diagnosis came as a relief, because it meant she wasn’t the only person in the world feeling the way she did. In her memoir “A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic-Depressive Illness”, Duke says she knew from a young age there was something wrong with her, “but I thought it was just that I was not a good person, that I didn’t try hard enough.” Duke has been an advocate for bipolar disorder awareness for years. She’s spoken out about her experience on numerous occasions, including on “20/20,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and during a 1997 interview with Barbara Walters on “The View.” Duke told Walters she considered herself lucky to have had “access to the media, to write a book and talk about” her experience. Duke continues to speak out; in 2005, she was asked to testify before Congress on mental health-related issues.
Jane Pauley The former “Dateline” NBC host discussed her bipolar disorder diagnosis in a 2004 interview with Matt Lauer. After struggling with minor depression for several months and not getting better, Pauley said she was shocked when the doctor explained she was actually suffering from bipolar disorder. In her 2004 memoir “Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue,” Pauley writes she doesn’t know if or when she’ll have another bipolar episode, but that she’s now adapted and learned to be more aware of her moods and how she’s feeling. “The world has not become spontaneously organized to make accommodations for my weaknesses while nurturing my newly discovered strengths,” Pauley wrote.
Linda Hamilton The star of “Terminator” told Larry King in 2005 that the bigger her life and career grew, the worse her mental health and bipolar disorder became. And because she suffered from depression while growing up, Hamilton said she now has a very open dialogue with her children and reminds them it’s okay to speak up about their feelings. In a 2006 interview for “Sidewalks,” Hamilton described the mood swings she often suffered before being diagnosed and receiving proper care for the condition. “I like to speak out to let people know that they’re not alone,” Hamilton said.