Bipolar Celebrities: Does It Make Them More Creative?
The creative curse
Depression may have been dubbed the “common cold of mental health,” but the mental health buzzword these days is bipolar disorder, possibly because it's often associated with creativity, verve, and charisma. Sometimes called manic depression, the disorder affects about 2.5% of the adult U.S. population and can cause extreme mood changes—from manic episodes of very high energy to extreme lows of depression.
Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose, even for the experts; that may explain why the media feel free to invoke the disorder in the wake of a celebrity’s erratic behavior or substance abuse. While some celebs have been outspoken about their struggles with bipolar disorder, others allude mysteriously to manic depression. Here, see which celebrities, past and present, have been linked to bipolar disorder.
Zeta-Jones told People magazine that she decided to go public because it might help others to step forward and get treatment.
"There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help," she said.
"Looking back it makes sense," she told People of her diagnosis. "There were times when I was so manic, I was writing seven songs in one night and I'd be up until 5:30 in the morning."
The Disney darling has since completed treatment and will continue to see doctors at home in L.A., but says, "I feel like I am in control now."
A January 2008 People magazine cover story about Spears referred to “a likely bipolar disorder,” and in it, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based psychiatrist said Spears’s actions suggested “classic bipolar behavior, including hypersexuality, poor judgment, and impulsivity.” Whatever mental health condition Spears may (or may not) have been suffering from, the beleaguered singer seems to have regained her footing.
“We knew that she was a manic depressive,” Monroe’s physician, Hyman Engelberg, MD, says in the film. “That always meant that there were emotional problems and that she could have big swings in her moods.” (You can watch clips of the film.)
Vincent van Gogh
Fisher told USA Today in 2002 that she now leads a normal life and her behavior is much more predictable, thanks to the lithium prescribed by her doctor. But it wasn’t always so easy. “I hacked off my hair, got a tattoo, and wanted to convert to Judaism," she said of her most recent manic episode.
Dickinson’s doctor diagnosed her with “nervous prostration,” which, according to the study’s author, psychiatrist John F. McDermott, MD, was “characterized by anxiety and depression.” In Dickinson’s time, physicians had not yet identified bipolar disorder as such, but, Dr. McDermott notes, Dickinson’s writing patterns are “not inconsistent” with the symptom profile of the disorder.
Hamilton decided to tell the public about her struggle 10 years after her diagnosis, when she had the disorder under control. “My quality of life is more amazing than I ever could’ve imagined in those 20 years of struggling with illness,” she said.