By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Catherine Zeta Jones – the 41-year-old Welsh actor checked into a day clinic in Connecticut for five days earlier this month for the treatment of bipolar disorder. “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 publicist Cece Yorke said in a statement adding, “She's feeling great and looking forward to starting work this week on her two upcoming films.”
Bipolar disorder is the technical term for manic depression, and involves wild mood swings from high to low, though in Bipolar II the "up" moods never reach full mania. Zeta-Jones was dealing with a lot said her friends. Douglas, 66, - her husband, underwent chemotherapy for stage four throat cancer last year but said in January his tumor had gone after six months of intensive treatment. His son Cameron from a previous marriage, was sentenced to prison last year on drug charges. Zeta-Jones and Douglas have two children: Dylan, 10, and Carys, seven. Other celebrities who are said to have suffered from bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, are Stephen Fry and, more recently, actor Charlie Sheen. About 1% of the population suffers from bipolar disorder.
Mark Davies, of the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said, “Clearly this is a difficult time for Catherine Zeta-Jones and we send her our best wishes. Bipolar disorder is a distressing and potentially severe condition and she will need a lot of care and support as she seeks to tackle it. But it is possible to overcome mental illness with the right treatment. “ He added, “She deserves great credit for revealing her illness in this way. There is still a lot of stigma around mental health, which often means that people stay silent and try to fight the illness on their own. When people such as Catherine Zeta-Jones speak out it, makes a big difference to the millions of other people facing mental illness. It shows them that they are not alone and that mental illness can affect anyone, rich or poor, famous or otherwise.”
“It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that a successful, beautiful woman would come to suffer with bipolar II disorder,” said Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist. “Success and beauty don’t insolate anyone from psychiatric disorders.” About 6 million Americans suffer from some form of bipolar disorder, Ablow said, and bipolar II is a common variant, characterized by episodes of depression and at least one episode of hypomania, in which the mood is seemingly too high but not fully maniac or out of touch with reality.
The disorder is 75 to 80 percent hereditary, according to Dr. Candida Fink, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and author of “Bipolar Disorder for Dummies” and “The Ups and Downs of Raising a Bipolar Child.” Bipolar dramatic episodes may show up in the early 30s with more manic episodes later in life in the 40s. “A lot of bipolar disorder is struggling with depression, mostly reported in childhood. Manic episodes show up later, and that’s when you’re hit over the head with bipolar,” Fink said. Ablow said for treatment, in addition to medication, patients should include psychotherapy.