No stigma: Seeking treatment for bipolar disorder

April 16, 2018 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

AP photo via 

For years, superstar singer Mariah Carey kept her bipolar disorder diagnosis a secret.

Carey has shattered her silence with an article in People magazine describing her condition and treatment, and how she feels about going public with her diagnosis.

“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she says in the article.

Carey says she decided to go public with her diagnosis in part to relieve the stigma of living with mental illness.

“I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone. It can be incredibly isolating,” she says in the article. “It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”

Carey is not the first celebrity to publicly discuss her bipolar diagnosis – so have Jane Pauley, Catherine Zeta Jones, Linda Hamilton and Demi Lovato.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports the average age bipolar symptoms first appear is about 25, but it can begin at younger ages.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports about 2.8 percent of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, while an estimated 4.4 percent experience the disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes significant mood and energy swings and affects a person’s ability to think clearly. The highs and lows of bipolar disorder are called mania and depression—much higher and lower than the highs and lows most people feel.

These mood swings can last for a few hours or a few months.

A manic episode is characterized by a person being very high spirited, irritable or energetic than usual for at least a week, and can include exaggerated self-esteem, sleeping less, talking more than usual, increased risky behavior, overscheduling oneself and seeming to be easily distracted.

A hypomanic episode is similar, though the symptoms are not as intense and the episode does not last as long.

A major depressive episode is a period of at least two weeks where a person would experience at least five of the following symptoms: feeling intensely sad and helpless or hopeless, loss of interest in activities he or she likes, feeling worthless, sleeping too much or not enough, feeling restless, eating more or less than usual, fatigue, difficulty concentrating or frequent suicidal thoughts.

Experts say the exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but that it can be genetic. Manic or depressive episodes can be triggered by a stressful, traumatic event or drug/alcohol abuse.

Bipolar disorder is treated with psychotherapy and medication, a plan Carey says she is currently following. Carey says she was diagnosed with bipolar II, which is similar to bipolar I disorder, though the symptoms are less severe.

As with many mental illnesses, it isn’t always easy to recognize that something is wrong. Many people who experience bipolar mood swings don’t realize they need treatment or that they may be affecting those around them.

If you or someone you love experiences severe mood swings, see a doctor or a mental health professional. There is no stigma or shame in taking care of yourself, whether it’s a physical disorder or a mental disorder.

Recovery is possible! At Linden Oaks Behavioral Health, we treat the whole person—physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Learn more.


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