Bipolar disorder affects an estimated 5.7 million American adults. Yet this mental health condition is still highly stigmatized. That’s why many celebrities who have bipolar have chosen to speak publicly about their experiences.
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According to Mayo Clinic, bipolar is a mental health disorder characterized by oscillating emotional highs (categorized as either manic or hypomanic episodes) and lows (depressive episodes). These extreme, unpredictable changes in a person’s mood or behavior often result in disruptions to their life. For example, people experiencing mania may lose sleep and engage in reckless behaviors; on the flip side, people experiencing depression may isolate themselves as they struggle to keep up with life’s demands.
Today, psychiatrists recognize two distinct forms of bipolar: bipolar I and bipolar II. People who receive a diagnosis of bipolar I have had at least one manic episode, while people with bipolar II have had a major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but no manic episodes. Contrary to popular belief, bipolar II isn’t a “less severe” form of bipolar; the major depression associated with this subset of the condition can be just as serious as mania.
Scientists aren’t totally sure what causes bipolar disorder. However, it does appear to have a heritable component. Regardless, people who have bipolar typically require treatments like therapy or medication to manage their symptoms.
Negative portrayals of people with bipolar in pop culture have contributed to the harmful stigmas surrounding this condition. However, celebrities like Demi Lovato, Mariah Carey, and Selena Gomez are using their reach to change that narrative. These days, more and more people are beginning to view bipolar disorder as just that: a treatable mental health disorder, not something to fear or be ashamed of.
Below, read up on eight celebrities who have opened up about their experiences with bipolar disorder.
Demi Lovato (who uses they/them and she/her pronouns) has spoken openly about living with bipolar disorder for years. The Disney Channel alum first shared their diagnosis in 2011, when they were just 18 years old. At the time, they were also struggling with an eating disorder and self-harming.
“I remember being 15 years old on a tour bus and watching fans follow my bus with posters and trying to get me to wave outside the window. And all I could do was just sit there and cry,” Lovato recalled at a concert in 2021, per PEOPLE. “And I remember being in the back of my tour bus watching my fans and crying and being like, ‘Why am I so unhappy?’ “
Getting diagnosed with bipolar allowed Lovato to properly treat her “extreme [emotional] lows,” which came as a huge relief. Although they’ve had some serious struggles since the — including a near-fatal drug overdose in 2018 — the “Sober” singer says they’re now doing better than ever.
“I want [teenagers] to know that talking to people and asking for help is more than okay and is absolutely what you should do,” she told TODAY’s Savannah Sellers earlier this year.
Carrie Fisher was also a well-known advocate for mental health awareness. Prior to her death in 2016, the beloved actress chronicled her struggles with substance use and bipolar disorder in her writing, including her best-selling 2008 memoir, Wishful Drinking.
Per Scientific American, Fisher once wrote in an advice column that she initially rejected her bipolar diagnosis when she was 24. It wasn’t until she “overdosed and got sober” at 28 that she began to address her symptoms.
In the column, Fisher went on to advise the person she was writing to — who also had bipolar — to connect with people who share their diagnosis.
“We have been given a challenging illness,” she added, “and there is no other option than to meet those challenges.”
Mariah Carey first spoke publicly about her struggles with bipolar II disorder in a 2018 cover story for PEOPLE. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter received her diagnosis all the way back in 2001. At the time, though, she “didn’t want to believe” that she needed help.
“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she told the magazine. “It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music.”
“I’m actually taking medication that seems to be pretty good. It’s not making me feel too tired or sluggish or anything like that,” Carey added. “Finding the proper balance is what is most important.”
In a 2020 Instagram Live convo with her friend Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez opened up publicly about her bipolar diagnosis.
“Recently I went to one of the best mental health hospitals in America, McLean Hospital, and I discussed that after years of going through a lot of different things, I realized I was bipolar,” the actress shared, per Elle UK. “So, when I know more information, it actually helps me. It doesn’t scare me when I know it.”
“I felt a huge weight lifted off me when I [got diagnosed],” Gomez told the U.S. edition of Elle in 2021. “I could take a deep breath and go, ‘Okay, that explains so much.’ ”
The Only Murders in the Building star has gotten personal about other health issues, too, including her battle with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease.
Terminator star Linda Hamilton first spoke out about living with bipolar in 2004. In an interview with AP Radio, the beloved actress said her “very severe” mood swings were negatively affecting her life and relationships. However, she feared seeking treatment for her symptoms.
“A lot of my early career was based on that angry woman that was just an organic outgrowth of the chemical imbalance that I had. And I thought, I’m going to become normal and I won’t have those extraordinary gifts as an actress,” she explained.
Luckily, that was not the case. Medicating her symptoms actually transformed Hamilton’s life for the better.
“… There is nothing that has been diminished or dulled [about me],” she added. “I don’t feel that any of my greatness has been covered over. … My quality of life is more amazing than I ever could’ve imagined in those 20 years of struggling with illness.”
Halsey was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 17.
After years of learning to manage their symptoms, the singer-songwriter now knows when they need to step back and prioritize their mental health. They also have the resources to get in-patient psychiatric care in moments of crisis, something they’ve done multiple times since launching their career.
“I’ve been committed twice since [I became] Halsey, and no one’s known about it. But I’m not ashamed of talking about it now,” Halsey told Rolling Stone in 2021. “It’s been my choice. I’ve said to [my manager], ‘Hey, I’m not going to do anything bad right now, but I’m getting to the point where I’m scared that I might, so I need to go figure this out.’ It’s still happening in my body. I just know when to get in front of it.”
Catherine Zeta-Jones has bipolar II, which her reps announced publicly in 2011. According to ABC News, the actress experienced her first depressive episode as a result of the condition when her husband Michael Douglas went through a highly public battle with throat cancer.
“I’m not the kind of person who likes to shout out my personal issues from the rooftops but, with my bipolar becoming public, I hope fellow sufferers will know it’s controllable,” Zeta-Jones told InStyle in 2012, per USA Today. “I hope I can help remove any stigma attached to it, and that those who don’t have it under control will seek help with all that is available to treat it.”
Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor revealed her bipolar diagnosis in a 2007 interview with Oprah. The condition has impacted her in different ways throughout her career. In 2012, she ended up canceling tour dates after experiencing a “v serious” mental health crisis.
“Doc had asked me not to tour but I thought was stronger than [I] am,” she tweeted at the time, per The Guardian. “… The singing part was fun though. But that’s only like 4% of one’s time.”
She later elaborated on her various mental health struggles — including borderline personality disorder and complex PTSD stemming from her abusive childhood — in Rememberings, her 2021 memoir.