Catherine Zeta-Jones’s Struggle with Bipolar Illness Revealed

Academy Award winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones recently sought  help at a mental healthcare facility. According to her publicist, Cece Yorke:

“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 spent five days at the undisclosed location, and now ready to start work next week on two upcoming films.

This has certainly been a stressful year for the actress: Her husband, Michael Douglas, is diagnosed and undergoes treatment for Stage 4 throat cancer;  Michael’s ex, Deana Douglas, is suing the actor for money from the movie Wall Street; not to mention having her own busy career and two young children at home.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Bipolar II disorder is a part of the bipolar spectrum, characterized by having at least one hypomanic episode along with major depression. For these patients, the depressive episodes seem to be more frequent and more intense than the manic episodes. Bipolar II is frequently missed, as the episodes of hypomania may be misinterpreted as being very high functioning behavior.

Scientists are learning about the possible causes of bipolar disorder. Most scientists agree that there is no single cause. Rather, many factors likely act together to produce the illness or increase risk. These include a genetic predisposition, and difference in brain structure and function. Although stress can bring on episodes of mania or depression, stress does not cause the bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder:

Many are calling Ms. Zeta-Jones “brave” by making her struggles with bipolar disease public. There has frequently been a stigma associated with mental health disorders. However, when highly successful people, such as Catherine Zeta-Jones reveal that they have been diagnosed with mental health disorders, they become “role models” for others with the disorder. Their public battles become “teachable moments” when we can all learn more about mental illness and mental health. Finally, it is an opportunity to show that “we all need a little help sometimes” and that there are people and places available that can offer that help.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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