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12 Celebrities with Mental Illnesses

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April 14, 2011 — — The revelation that the seemingly unshakable actress Catherine Zeta-Jones has been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder illustrates the hallmarks of the disease: it can strike at any time in a person’s life and is often brought on by prolonged stressed.

Zeta-Jones, 41, fell victim to the disorder’s wild mood swings after her husband Michael Douglas went through a high-profile battle with stage IV throat cancer and then endured a court fight with Douglas’ first wife over proceeds from the “Wall Street” movie sequel.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive illness, is a mental illness characterized by mood swings between the two psychological pulls of depression and euphoria.

“It can start at any time in a person’s life and it’s a lifelong illness,” Dr. Igor Galynker, director of the Family Center for Bipolar Disorder at Beth Israel Medical Center told ABC News OnCall.

Zeta-Jones is said to have been diagnosed with bipolar II, which is a form of the disorder which is characterized by longer low periods.

Stress is one common trigger for bipolar disorder, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. The condition can also be spotted if someone has a prolonged feeling of agitation, trouble sleeping, major changes in appetite, and thoughts of suicide.

Zeta-Jones has had plenty of stress over the past year. Last year, Douglas, 66, the father of Zeta-Jones’ two children, was diagnosed with stage IV throat cancer. While Douglas announced in January that he was cancer free, he and Zeta-Jones have more recently had to battle Douglas’ first wife, Diandra, who is suing Douglas for a portion of the royalties from his movie, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”

“After dealing with the stress of the past year, Catherine made the decision to check into a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat her bipolar II disorder,” Zeta-Jones publicist said in a statement.

According to Galynker, there’s hope for most who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“It is not curable, but it is treatable with medications and psychotherapy.” said Galynker. “People with bipolar illness can have productive lives like anybody else, once they’re in treatment and compliant with treatment.”

Catherine Zeta-Jones Battling Bipolar Disorder

The first step, according to ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr.Richard Besser, is to recognize that you have the disorder. Self-recognition will help pave a more successful road to treatment, said Besser.

“When it comes to mental illness, you talk about it more as controlled and managed and it’s something she will probably be dealing with for her entire life,” said Besser.

Although mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder are often stigmatizing, ABC News consultant Howard Bragman says Zeta-Jones’ public announcement of her condition may help others seek help for their own mental health.

“No matter what the reason it was courageous on her part to own this to such a specificity,” Bragman told “Good Morning America.” “I think it will create a teachable moment in a dialogue among health care people, among normal people.”

How is bipolar II disorder treated?

The treatment plan for bipolar II disorder usually includes psychotherapy, medication, and/or social support. Medications that stabilize mood have been used to treat this illness, including:

  • lithium,
  • lamotrigine (Lamictal), and
  • valproic acid (Depakote).

While some people with this illness benefit from treatment with an antidepressant medication (like fluoxetine , venlafaxine , or escitalopram ), practitioners use such medications with care because of the risk of antidepressant medication being associated with the development of hypomania or mania. For some people with severe symptoms of bipolar II disorder whom do not respond well to medications, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be a viable treatment option.

Talk therapy (psychotherapy) is an important part of helping individuals with bipolar II disorder achieve the highest level of functioning possible. While medications can be quite helpful in alleviating and preventing overt symptoms, they do not address the many complex social and psychological issues that can play a major role in how the person with this disease functions at work, home, and in his or her relationships. Psychotherapies that have been found to be effective in treating bipolar disorders include family focused therapy, psycho-education, cognitive therapy, and interpersonal therapy. Family focused therapy involves education of family members about the disorder and how to help (psycho-education), communication-enhancement training, and teaching family members problem-solving skills training. Psycho-education involves teaching the person with bipolar II disorder and their family members about the symptoms of this illness, as well as warning signs (for example, a change in sleep pattern or appetite, increased irritability) that the person is beginning to experience a mood episode. In cognitive behavioral therapy, the mental-health professional works to help the person with bipolar II disorder identify, challenge, and decrease negative thinking and otherwise dysfunctional belief systems. The goal of interpersonal therapy tends to be identifying and managing problems the sufferers of bipolar disorder may have in their relationships with others.

In addition to whether the individual has medical or other mental illness, appropriate treatment or socioeconomic disadvantages, the prognosis of bipolar II disorder is largely connected to how often mood episodes occur. The lower the number of mood-disorder episodes, the better the prognosis for the individual.

No amount of PR spend could have brought Catherine Zeta-Jones the fund of sympathy and goodwill she has received after announcing she was being treated for bipolar disorder. Mental health charities congratulated her on her courage in speaking up, and even the red-top tabloids treated her with dignity.

It’s only eight years since the Sun’s front page screamed, “Bonkers Bruno locked up”, after the former boxer Frank Bruno suffered a breakdown and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. On Thursday the tone reserved for reporting Zeta-Jones’s illness was very different: “Bipolar Zeta in clinic five days – star’s depression after Michael’s cancer fight,” said a much more muted Sun.

Zeta-Jones, 41, came to prominence 20 years ago in the bucolic TV comedy about the Larkin family, The Darling Buds of May. Born in Swansea to a seamstress mother and sweet factory-owning father, from the off she looked destined for Hollywood.

And so it proved. Not only did she go on to star in movies such as The Mask of Zorro and Traffic, she also married leading Hollywood player Michael Douglas in 2000. They were the showbiz dream team, a source of endless stories (their 25-year age difference, their combined wealth, her looks, his drug addictions – and then there were the movies). They sold pictures of their marriage to OK! for £1.5m, and even that resulted in a dramatic court case when Hello! ran the pictures without permission.

Zeta-Jones’s film career peaked in 2003 when she won the best supporting actress Oscar for her performance as Velma Kelly in Chicago. But there has been plenty of well-documented turbulence in her life too. In 2004 Dawnette Knight, who had been infatuated with Douglas, was jailed after stalking Zeta-Jones – she sent letters telling her she would die like John F Kennedy or Manson Family victim Sharon Tate. “This has affected me and it will affect me the rest of my life,” Zeta-Jones testified. “I felt like a ticking timebomb.”

There were also rumours in 2007 that her marriage was creaking, and last August it was revealed that Douglas, with whom she has two children, had stage IV throat cancer.

Even in her earlier 20s, there had been hints all was not well. In 1993 after splitting from Blue Peter presenter John Leslie, she said: “I get very lonely and think nobody wants me any more. I can’t take a bus or tube on my own any more. It terrifies me. I get all panicked.” Last year she admitted to fighting depression: “I try and stay positive because I don’t just bring myself down, I bring everyone else down.”

This week Zeta-Jones issued a statement that she had spent five days in a psychiatric hospital in Connecticut being treated for bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. She is said to have struggled with stress after Douglas’s cancer diagnosis. Her spokeswoman said: “After dealing with the stress of the past year, Catherine made the decision to check into a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat her bipolar II disorder.”

The announcement that she is suffering from bipolar II – a form of manic depression in which the ups are not as high as with bipolar I – was welcomed by mental health organisations. In recent years, celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Paul Gascoigne and Ruby Wax have helped to normalise depression and bipolar disorder.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: ” will have a huge impact on recognising mental illness is a condition that everyone can suffer from. The importance is for people to accept it’s a treatable illness rather than live with it for years so that they become more and more sucked into a downward spiral and at risk of suicide.”

Bipolar disorder is estimated to affect up to 2.4 million people in the UK, and sufferers are estimated to be 10 times more likely to kill themselves than the rest of the population. The average time for seeking help is 4.5 years, and a US survey showed that it took an average of 10.2 years for correct diagnosis and treatment. Although bipolar disorder is often first experienced in the teens or 20s, trauma can often tip sufferers into a crisis.

“I think with the diagnosis and accepting the need for treatment, Catherine will feel liberated and believe that things can improve,” Wallace said. “Whereas those with bipolar I tend to experience severe mania as well as severe depression, bipolar II presents more as depression, feelings of sadness, hopelessness and guilt.”

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, a campaign to end the discrimination surrounding mental health problems, said Zeta-Jones’s statement would make it easier for others to admit to their illness. “We already know the impact of Stephen Fry’s documentary and how that helped people discuss the issue more openly.”

The danger, she said, is that members of the public start to believe depression or bipolar disorder is something only suffered by famous or creative people. “It can almost seem that this is the price of success, which is nonsense. Major life changes can have an impact on anybody’s mental health and wellbeing.”

Time to Change and Sane say that while celebrities are more willing to publicise mental health problems, there is still a stigma in many walks of life. “We want to see people in key public positions coming forward, feeling more able to talk about it,” Baker said. “The former prime minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik, got re-elected with an even higher majority once he disclosed he’d had to step back for a couple of months because he’d been experiencing depression.”

Yet for British politicians admitting to depression or bipolar disorder is still taboo. “A confidential survey carried out by the all-party parliamentary mental health group showed one in five politicians had experienced a mental health problem but how many of them have actually talked about it?” said Baker.

“As the law stands at the moment if you’re a sitting MP and you get sectioned, you wouldn’t be able to remain an MP. For me that is the very height of discrimination.”Zeta-Jones, meanwhile, seems on the road to recovery after her brief stay in the Silver Hill clinic in Connecticut. Her spokeswoman said: “She’s feeling great and looking forward to starting work on her two upcoming films.”

Experts applaud Zeta-Jones for managing bipolar disorder

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Mental health advocates and doctors who treat bipolar disorders say managing the condition can be complicated — and they applaud Oscar-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones for seeking more help for her bipolar II disorder.

All kinds of things can trigger problems, from stress to irregular schedules, say doctors.

“It’s great that she is getting help for herself and serving as a role model,” says Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental health organization based in Arlington, Va. “Every time light is shed on this illness, I think people’s anxiety or sense of shame is reduced.”

STORY: Zeta-Jones in treatment for bipolar disorder

Zeta-Jones’ spokeswoman, Cece Yorke, confirmed in an e-mail to USA TODAY this morning that “Catherine has proactively checked into a health care facility. Previously Catherine has said that she is committed to periodic care in order to manage her health in an optimum manner.”

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes shifts in mood and energy, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The mental illness, which was known as manic depression, can develop in the late teen years or early adulthood.

About 3.9% of the U.S. adult population have a lifetime prevalence of bipolar disorder, according to the NIMH. About 2.6% of the population have a 12-month prevalence.

Manic episodes are associated with a long period of feeling “high,” or overly happy or irritable. Mood changes associated with a depressive episode include a long period of feeling “low,” or empty or worried.

Bipolar II disorder is marked by depressive episodes, shifting with hypomanic episodes. It has no full-blown manic episodes.

Duckworth, a psychiatrist, says the disorder can be difficult to treat at times.

Strategies for treating bipolar II disorder include psychotherapy, a medication regimen, stress management, a regular sleep schedule, aerobic exercise, and recognition of triggers, such as season of the year, says Duckworth, who has not treated Zeta-Jones.

David Miklowitz, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine, says episodes can be triggered by going off one’s medications and severe stress, such as job loss.

Miklowitz, who has not treated the actress, says a significant change in a person’s sleep cycle or circadian rhythm can be problematic. He recommends regular times for waking up and going to bed.

Duckworth advises people not to work night shifts or varied shifts. He also suggests that people with bipolar disorders exercise regularly, and notes that it is helpful to have loving and supportive relationships.

People usually have out-patient care with medications and psychotherapy, says Miklowitz, author of The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide. How often people need to adjust their medications varies, he says. Sometimes people need more intensive treatment, such as hospitalization, if they are severely depressed, he adds.

In 2011, the Welsh-born actress spent five days at Silver Hill Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in New Canaan, Conn.

Zeta-Jones, 43, stars as Miranda Wood in the action-comedy movie Red 2, which is out July 19.

Celebrity Illnesses: Catherine Zeta Jones and Bipolar Disorder II

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Mood Swings

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a severe mental health problem. It involves extreme mood swings that alternate between highs and lows.

“For some of the time people are very, very depressed — and that’s not the same as just being a bit blue or having a bit of a bad day,” says Jane Harris, associate director of the mental health charity Rethink. She tells WebMD that a typical symptom is “a complete lack of emotion about anything” and during episodes “people are very down, they lack self-worth, and they may have problems even getting out of bed, let alone out of the house.”

Harris says the other side to the condition is a period when people feel “absolutely euphoric and pretty manic and really feel like they can take on the world and do anything.”

Harris says stressful situations such as bereavement, divorce, or money worries can trigger bipolar. “Certainly caring for a husband who is very ill will certainly be a very stressful time.”

Harris thinks publicity surrounding Zeta-Jones’s treatment for bipolar will be good for other people with the disorder who are prone to feeling stigmatized. “Somebody like Catherine Zeta-Jones talking so openly about it … just shows that this can happen to anybody, and I think that is a bit of a comfort for people who are really struggling.”

Some mental health professionals categorize bipolar into four main subtypes. Bipolar II, which Zeta-Jones is said to have, has similar symptoms as bipolar I. These symptoms include moods that cycle between high and low. However, in bipolar II, the “up” mood swings are much less intense.

Catherine Zeta Jones treated for bipolar disorder

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionCatherine Zeta Jones has revealed she has been treated for bipolar disorder.

Catherine Zeta Jones has received treatment for bipolar disorder after dealing with the stress of her husband’s battle with throat cancer.

Zeta Jones, 41, made a decision to check into a “mental health facility” for a brief stay, said her publicist.

Michael Douglas, who was diagnosed last year, said in January his tumour had gone and he was beating the disease.

Last September, Zeta Jones said she was “furious” that doctors failed to detect the cancer earlier.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, causes severe mood swings, that usually last several weeks or months.

Zeta Jones’s publicist Cece Yorke said the actress sought treatment for the condition following the stress of her husband’s cancer fight.

“After dealing with the stress of the past year, Catherine made the decision to check in to a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat her Bipolar II disorder,” said Yorke.

“She’s feeling great and looking forward to starting work this week on her two upcoming films.”

It is unclear when Zeta Jones, who is from Swansea, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder or where she received treatment.

Mark Davies, from mental health charity Rethink, said the actress had shown courage in revealing the disorder as there was still a stigma around mental illness.

“Although she’ll be feeling pretty fragile and vulnerable, she will have – in a sense – given some comfort to a lot of other people who are probably suffering in silence and probably feeling a great deal of fear,” he added.

Mr Davies said the disorder could be triggered by a range of factors and that no individual case was the same.

He said the star was likely to be given medication and talking therapy, recognised as increasingly effective in cases of serious mental illness.

About 1% of the population suffers from bipolar disorder.

Alun Thomas of the Welsh mental health charity Hafal said: “The important part of this news is Catherine has sought help.

“Many parts of the press can sensationalise this but I think it’s important to discuss the issues sensitively and raise awareness.

“Many creative and famous people have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder… there are many people out there who have recovered and gone to be very productive in their lives.”

Shortly after her husband was diagnosed with cancer, the actress revealed she was “furious” that doctors failed to detect the disease earlier.

In an interview with People magazine last September, she said: “He sought every option and nothing was found. I knew something was up. He knew something was up.”

“It makes me furious they didn’t detect it earlier,” she added.

The star, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in Chicago, was made a CBE by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace in February.

She first found fame in the UK on the small screen in the 1991 comedy drama, the Darling Buds of May, before heading to Hollywood to star in Entrapment, Traffic and The Mask of Zorro.

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