After Mariah Carey bravely announced that she’s secretly been dealing with bipolar disorder for years, we wanted to learn more about it. Here’s 5 things you may not have known about the disorder.
1. Bipolar disorder is a brain and behavior disorder that affects more than 5.7 million American adults. The disorder, formerly called manic depression, “is a brain and behavior disorder characterized by severe shifts in a person’s mood and energy, making it difficult for the person to function,” according to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. Individuals with bipolar disorder typically start experiencing symptoms in late adolescence or early adulthood, but some live with the disorder for years without having it properly diagnosed and treated. Nearly 2.6 percent of Americans age 18 or above have bipolar disorder.
2. Bipolar disorder is characterized by repeated mood swings or “episodes” and more: Bipolar episodes make someone feel very high (mania) or very low (depressive). In between, they experience normal moods. Signs of mania include: increased energy and restlessness, euphoria, extreme irritability, poor concentration, racing thoughts and fast talking, sleeplessness, increased sexual behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, intrusive or aggressive behavior, denial that something is wrong, and even spending sprees.
A depressive episode is characterized by: sad, anxious or empty-feeling mood, feelings of hopelessness, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, loss of interest in activities, including sex, decreased energy and fatigue, difficulty concentrating, restlessness or irritability, sleeping too much or not enough, change in appetite and unintended weight gain/loss, bodily symptoms not caused by injury or illness, and thoughts of death or suicide.
3. Bipolar disorder is treated with mood stabilizing medications and psychotherapy. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but it’s treatable and manageable. The first course of action is prescribing a mood stabilizer, most commonly Lithium. Sometimes, anticonvulsant meds can work as mood stabilizers, too, as well as antipsychotics and antidepressants. Mood swings can still occur under medication, and should be reported immediately to a doctor for a medication adjustment. Psychotherapy provides support, guidance, and education to bipolar patients and their families.
4. There are two type of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I is characterized by “manic or mixed episodes that last at least seven days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care,” according to Brain & Behavior. Their depressive episodes generally last at least two weeks.
Bipolar II is “a pattern of depressive episodes shifting back and forth with hypomanic episodes, but no full-blown manic or mixed episodes.”
There is also Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS), diagnosed when a person has symptoms of the illness that don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for either Bipolar I or II.
5. Mariah Carey isn’t the only celebrity with bipolar disorder. Mariah’s not alone. These celebrities have openly spoken about being bipolar: Demi Lovato, Sinead O’Connor, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, Carrie Fisher, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, and even historical figures like Vincent Van Gogh and Winston Churchill.