Catherine Zeta-Jones

The Truth About Bipolar Disorder

April 27, 2011 at 4:52 pm , by

Drama and comedyIt’s been quite a week in Hollywood mental health news. Three months after her husband Michael Douglas was declared cancer-free, Catherine Zeta-Jones checked herself into treatment for bipolar disorder II. “This is a disorder that affects millions of people and I am one of them,” Zeta-Jones said in a statement to People magazine. Just days later, Disney star and musician Demi Lovato revealed she also suffers from the disorder, and tweeted her support for the actress.

While it may seem like bipolar is another one of those non-ailments that only happens to celebrities, like “a nervous breakdown” or “exhaustion,” the truth is that it’s a serious diagnosis affecting close to 6 million Americans.

There are two different types: bipolar disorder I is characterized by cycling between episodes of mania and depression. Catherine Zeta-Jones has bipolar disorder II, which is alternating between depression and hypomania, a less intense form of mania. What makes bipolar different from major depression are these manic or hypomanic episodes that make you feel on top of the world, says Jennifer Yashari, M.D., a psychiatrist in Los Angeles and a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board.

“That’s why bipolar can be complicated because many times people don’t want to be treated for mania—your mind races, and things come to you so quickly and easily,” she adds. For some patients, those manic episodes may feel creative, productive, even brilliant, while to others they may seem delusional.

So how do you know when you or a loved one needs help? “It’s tricky,” and there are a lot of misconceptions, Dr. Yashari says. Read on after the jump to learn the real story behind symptoms and treatment.

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