Bipolar disorder has been in the news since Sinéad O’Connor told fans she has returned to hospital for her mental health issues. She’s one of seven celebrities who have opened up about living with the mental illness
Sinéad O’Connor told her fans yesterday she was back in hospital for her mental health. In a video on her Facebook, Sinéad said she was ‘totally destroyed’, and that the situation was ‘unbearable’. The latest upload comes after the 50 year old singer explained in a video last week that she was fighting for her life, and has been for two years. Alone in a hotel room in New Jersey, Sinéad said ‘Three f***ing illnesses made me suicidal … My whole life is revolving around just not dying’.
Her terrifying words are not the first in a stream of suicide attempts and mental health problems in the singer’s history. She experienced a sexually abusive and traumatic childhood which appears to haunt her to this day, suffering with PTSD and depression over the years and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 37.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is characterised by a series of mood states, including depression, anxiousness, irritability and mania – an extremely elevated mood where people can feel talkative, fast thinking, invincible and very happy. Metal health charity Mind estimated in 2016, two in 100 people in England alone had bipolar, and the NHS reports that it can occur at any age, although it often develops between the ages of 15 and 19 and rarely develops after 40.
Sinéad told Oprah Winfrey in a 2004 interview, ‘I don’t think I was born with bipolar disorder—I believe it was created as a result of the violence I experienced’. The songwriter, who rose to fame in 1990 with Nothing Compares 2 U, later told fans on her website that after second opinions, she did not in fact suffer with bipolar, and ‘never did’. She came off medication which she described as ‘extremely debilitating’.
I’m fighting and fighting and fighting like all the millions of people
‘I’m delighted to be able to say that after ten years of poisoning myself with these drugs and having to live with the extremely difficult side-effects of them I can shortly begin the very, very slow indeed, process of getting them out of my system and my life and getting my life back’, she told the Irish Mirror in 2013.
However, her tearful video raised fresh concerns for her mental health. ‘I’m fighting and fighting and fighting like all the millions of people’, she says, whilst claiming her family have not taken care of her. ‘[No one] except my doctor, my psychiatrist — who is the sweetest man on earth who says I’m his hero — and that’s about the only f**king thing keeping me alive at the moment.’
Sinéad shines a light on the fact that celebrities are no different from the rest of us. ‘Mental illness is a bit like drugs, it doesn’t give a s*** who you are. Equally what is worse is that the stigma doesn’t give a s*** who you are’, she says.
Despite returning to hospital, Sinéad said she had had the most ‘beautiful week’ after the huge response from her original video that she has made hoping that it would be ‘somehow helpful’.
Here are six other celebrities that are speaking out about their bipolar.
Demi Lovato, 24
American singer and actress Demi Lovato has never shied away from her mental health issues. She went through years of bulimia, self harm and drug addition before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in rehab in 2011. ‘For years, people said I was depressed, and I actually didn’t know myself why I was so upset and why I would have these episodes of mania—what I now know is mania’, she told Women’s Health. ‘I was actually manic a lot of the times that I would take on workloads, and I would say, yes, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this. I was conquering the world, but then I would come crashing down, and I would be more depressed than ever’, she told ABC News. Despite being a loud advocate by campaigning, last week Demi urged people to not use bipolar as a label. ‘It’s something that I have, it’s not who I am,’ she said on a podcast with iHeartRADIO.
Stephen Fry, 59
Favourite British actor and comedian Stephen Fry has won awards for his contribution to raising awareness about mental health. He suffered with various problems for the majority of his life, and was first diagnosed with bipolar also at the age of 37, and spoke about living with it in his 2006 documentary Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. ‘I always heard voices in my head saying what a useless bastard I am, but the voice is my own… telling me what a worthless lump of shit I am’, Stephen says.
10 years later, Stephen, who is president of the charity Mind, followed up with The Not So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive: 10 Years On. He is shown talking with his psychiatrist, who treated him after an attempted suicide in 2012. ‘This is not a condition which is going to go away’, he says to Dr William Shanahan. ‘You are not talking about curing me, you’re talking about how best I can cope with something that will live with me.’
Catherine Zeta Jones, 47
When Catherine Zeta Jones was diagnosed with bipolar in 2011, she said, ‘finding out that it was called something was the best thing that ever happened to me!’ In an interview with Good Housekeeping, she described her illness as a pain in the ass, and it intensified whilst her husband, Michael Douglas, battled with stage four throat cancer. ‘When you get sideswiped like that [with Douglas’s illness] it’s an obvious trigger for your balance to be a little bit off – not sleeping, worry, stress. It’s a classic trigger’, she told The Telegraph.
Her goal is ‘to be consistently in the middle’. Learning how to control it herself, she told InStyle Magazine, ‘with my bipolar becoming public, I hope fellow sufferers will know it is completely controllable’.
Rene Russo, 63
Rene Russo broke the shocking news that she has been living with bipolar on The Queen Latifah Show in 2014. The TV host asked, ‘what is something in your life you’ve had to push through?’, to which Rene said ‘bipolar medication’. It was the first time the Nightcrawler star had opened up about her illness, with co-star Jake Gyllenhaal just as surprised as the audience. She explained that bipolar had haunted her since she was young, and turned to medication when, ‘I literally crashed, hit a wall and couldn’t get out of bed. I thought it was depression’, the actress said.
Urging others to seek treatment, she said ‘I have friends who don’t want to go on medication, and they are suffering’. Rene never felt embarrassed about her illness, although recognises there is a stigma. She revealed in an interview with Good Morning America that to her, it’s the same as someone saying they take medication for high blood pressure.
Tom Fletcher, 32
Looking at the McBusted bandmate’s life from the outside, you wouldn’t believe he had suffered with depression, an eating disorder and bipolar. But in an autobiography, Unsaid Things… Our Story, by the Mcfly boys in 2012, he revealed that consuming just 450 calories a day to avoid being the ‘fat one’ of the band plunged him back into depression – something he’d gone through five years earlier. He said he was ‘difficult to be with, I was a complete a**e a lot of the time’.
‘When I was at my lowest I read an article about it and cried because I knew that was me’, Tom wrote referring to his diagnosis of bipolar in 2011. ‘I realised that I was struggling more than other people around me were’, he later said on a TV interview with Fearne Cotton. At times the star struggled to get out of bed and even became suicidal. But it was his beautiful baby with wife Gionna, Buzz, that ‘changed everything’ for him in an enlightening way.
Tom with his two children
Kerry Katona, 36
Kerry Katona isn’t fearful about showing the real face of a mental health issue. In May, she posted a candid photo to her 73k followers on Instagram with the caption, ‘Feeling blue. bi-polar is a b***h!’. Kerry, who sung in Atomic Kitten and had a series of reality shows about herself, was diagnosed in 2005. Two of her five children, Lilly and Molly, have described life in the house at this time, when they were only four and five years old. They said it was ‘sad and horrible in the house’, but when their mum was on a high, they couldn’t wait to get out of bed and spend time with her.
Kerry is keen to kick the stigma around mental health. She received a backlash after an infamous TV interview eight years ago, whereby medication made her slur her words, although people suggested she was drunk. ‘I’m still on medication and I’m not ashamed to admit that’, Kerry said on the same This Morning sofa this year.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder
According to MIND charity, if you have bipolar disorder, you are likely to have times where you experience:
- manic or hypomanic episodes (feeling high)
- depressive episodes (feeling low)
- potentially some psychotic symptoms during manic or depressed episodes
Everyone has variations in their mood, but in bipolar disorder these changes can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life. You may feel that your high and low moods are extreme, and that swings in your mood are overwhelming.
Depending on the way you experience different bipolar moods and symptoms, and how severely they affect you, your doctor my diagnose you with a particular type of bipolar disorder. The three main types are:
Bipolar I: You may be told you have bipolar I if you have experienced at least one episode of mania which has lasted longer than a week. You might also have experienced depressive episodes, although not everyone does.
Bipolar II: You may be told you have bipolar II if you have experienced both – at least one episode of severe depression and symptoms of hypomania.
Cyclothymia: You may be told you have cyclothymia if you have experienced both hypomanic and depressive mood states over the course of two years or more and your symptoms aren’t severe enough to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of bipolar I or bipolar II. This can be a difficult diagnosis to receive, because you may feel that you are being told your symptoms are ‘not serious enough’. But in fact cyclothymia can have a serious impact on your life.