Going back to the early and mid-millennium, most of us may recall a large swath of magazine articles filled with celebrities coming out as having bipolar disorder.
For instance, Britney Spears is just one celebrity among many famous people diagnosed with the condition.
After a public meltdown in 2007, Spears left her home accompanied by a team of medical professionals to be treated in a mental health facility after keeping her two young sons hostage. Shortly afterwards, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
In addition, it is also reported that Spears was diagnosed with postpartum depression several years ago.
Does bipolar disorder mainly affect creative people, or is it all just a coincidence?
However, the iconic pop princess is not the only celebrity diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
You may be surprised to learn that many celebrities, including singers, music producers, actors and actresses, also suffer from various types of bipolar, including the following:
- Demi Lovato
- Mariah Carey
- Mel Gibson
- Kurt Kobain
- Selena Gomez
- Kanye West
- Jean-Claude Van Damme
All this begs the question; does bipolar disorder mainly impact creative people, or is it the stress and pressure of being in the public eye?
And more to the point, why does it seem like so many celebrities have bipolar disorder?
We will dive further into this subject shortly, but first, let’s look at bipolar disorder in more detail.
Bipolar disorder, what is it, and how do you know whether you have it?
Bipolar disorder is a severe mental health condition characterized by intense mood swings.
People with bipolar disorder may experience various fluctuations in mood and emotion, affecting their daily functioning and interactions with themselves and others.
Common symptoms of bipolar disorder include heightened excitement and extreme episodes of low mood (or depressive feelings), to name just a few.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder symptoms can vary, depending on the person, their history and the presence of other physical and mental health conditions.
However, one of the hallmark symptoms of bipolar disorder is the extreme mood swings people with the condition experience, including emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and extreme lows (depression). (Bipolar disorder, Mayo Clinic.)
When in the mania or hypomania phase of bipolar disorder, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Intense energy and enthusiasm
- Increased irritation or agitation
On the other hand, when you become depressed, you may experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Intense sadness
- Exhaustion or fatigue
- A lack of interest in hobbies and activities you usually enjoy
The different types of bipolar disorder
Various types of bipolar disorder exist; these conditions may include a combination of symptoms such as depression, mania, and hypomania.
People with bipolar disorder may experience various symptoms and challenges that can affect their daily functioning and quality of life, depending on the type of bipolar disorder they are diagnosed with.
As mentioned, there are various types of bipolar disorder, including:
- Bipolar I disorder – involves at least one manic episode, where a major depressive or hypomanic episode may follow. In severe cases of bipolar I disorder, individuals may experience symptoms of psychosis (a break from reality) triggered by a mania episode.
- Bipolar II disorder – involves at least one hypomanic episode and one major depressive episode (but no manic episodes).
- Cyclothymic disorder – is a milder mood disorder where an individual experiences several episodes of hypomania and bouts of depressive symptoms that are less severe than major depression.
Other types of bipolar disorder include bipolar with seasonal patterns, unspecified bipolar, rapid cycling bipolar disorder, and substance/medical-induced bipolar and related disorder.
Bipolar disorder is a treatable condition
Fortunately, bipolar disorder is a treatable condition, provided people seek proper treatment and support from a mental health professional.
Treatment can help you manage your condition, including mood swings and other symptoms. The most common treatments for bipolar disorder include psychotherapy and medication.
If you or a loved one are struggling with any of the above symptoms, you must speak to a healthcare professional for further advice and support.
Mental health and creativity
Various scientific studies have explored the connection between creativity and mental illness.
The researchers found a strong correlation between specific mental health conditions and higher levels of creativity; for instance, one study showed that several famous artists had reported symptoms of mental illness throughout history.
Well-known writers, including Edgar Allen Poe and Virginia Woolf, have spoken out about their struggles with bipolar disorder in the past.
So, why does it seem like so many celebrities have bipolar disorder?
It’s impossible to say why so many famous people are impacted by bipolar disorder, but their stardom likely doesn’t help matters.
Being papped left, right and center. Good press, bad press. Having their bikini-clad bodies scrutinized in popular glossy magazines for all to see. As you can imagine, there are many reasons why celebrities may be more prone to specific mental illnesses than non-famous people.
However, Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, reported that Catherine Zeta-Jones’ mental health diagnosis several years ago may have made it easier for others to admit their struggles with mental illness.
Spreading awareness around mental health issues can be profoundly helpful for those who struggle to talk about their illness. In addition, by speaking up, celebrities may have finally encouraged members of the public to do the same.
Although there are some dangers surrounding this type of awareness, says Sue Baker, where members of the public may start to believe that depression or bipolar disorder is something only suffered by famous or creative people. (The Guardian, written by Simon Hattenstone, April 14, 2011.)
”It can almost seem that this is the price of success, which is nonsense,” explains Baker. ”Major life changes can have an impact on anybody’s mental health and well-being.” (The Guardian, written by Simon Hattenstone, April 14, 2011.)
Current studies show that researchers continue exploring the connection between creativity and mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, and whether specific treatments, including creative therapy, can effectively treat the symptoms. (Bipolar Disorder and Creativity, Healthline, Stephanie Watson, March 6, 2023).
Singer-songwriter Demi Lovato has also shared her story of bipolar disorder, stating:
”I’ve been told that they think I was misdiagnosed when I was eighteen. I came out to the public when I found out I was bipolar because I thought it put reasoning behind my actions.”
As well as having bipolar disorder, Lovato has also struggled with an eating disorder, where in 2018, she suffered a significant relapse and broke her sobriety.
American actress and singer Selena Gomez spoke of her struggles with mental illness in a 2020 interview, reporting that she had been treated in one of America’s best mental health hospitals. (Maclean Hospital.)
Gomez endured a long battle with depression and anxiety before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, saying that the diagnosis was helpful to her as it allowed her to understand more about her anxiety and depression. (Selena Gomez: Singer speaks about bipolar disorder, BBC, April 6, 2020.)
During the interview, Gomez goes on to say:
”I never had full awareness or answers about the condition. So when I have more information, it actually helps me; it doesn’t scare me once I have it.” (Selena Gomez: Singer speaks about bipolar disorder, BBC, April 6, 2020).
Another high-profile celebrity diagnosed with bipolar disorder is Hollywood actress Catherine-Zeta Jones.
Zeta-Jones was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder after experiencing intense mood swings in the wake of her husband’s (Michael Douglas) infamous battle with throat cancer.
Some reports show that Zeta-Jones had suffered from intense episodes of depression and anxiety long before her bipolar diagnosis and has since undergone treatment for her condition.
Are creative therapies effective for treating bipolar disorder?
Some studies have shown that specific creative therapies, including art and music therapy, may benefit those with bipolar disorder, although research in this area is limited.
Most rehab clinics provide art and music therapy as part of an integrated treatment program for people with mental health disorders such as substance abuse, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.
Art therapy can help improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, cultivate emotional resilience, increase social skills and reduce anxiety and mental distress. (Art Therapy Treatment For Bipolar Disorder, Betterhelp, March 30, 2023.)
Furthermore, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that art therapy benefits those with bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions. It encourages self-expression and creativity and may positively affect brain function, similar to other treatments such as CBT. (Art Therapy Treatment For Bipolar Disorder, Betterhelp, March 30, 2023.)
The bottom line
Although many creatives, including writers, producers, musicians, and famous actors, have historically been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, more research needs to be done on the link between creativity and mental illness before a conclusion is made.
Various risk factors can contribute to people developing mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, including family history, genetics, childhood trauma, and other influences.
Research initiatives into the benefits of art therapy and other creative therapies for mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder, seem promising.
However, as it stands, the most effective treatments for bipolar disorder are a combination of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medication.
How Tikvah Lake Recovery can help
Our experienced, multidisciplinary team provides a dual-diagnostic treatment approach, meaning we treat the ‘whole’ person, not just their symptoms.
In our experience, integrated treatment is often the most effective since these programs offer a personalized approach to mental health treatment, giving clients a deeper insight into their condition and providing them with the tools and resources to manage their symptoms.
If you think you may have symptoms of bipolar disorder or would like to learn more about the condition and treatment options, please get in touch with our admissions counselor who will be happy to help.