Catherine Zeta-Jones is a Welsh actress, known for her vibrant attitude and beauty. The Oscar winning actress has starred in blockbusters like Chicago, The Mask of Zorro and The Terminal. She also recently bagged a Tony for A Little Night Music. While one of the few celebrities able to keep her private life away from the public stare, Zeta-Jones was recently diagnosed with Bipolar (Type II).
In April 2011 she sought treatment at a Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut. The resulting media frenzy over her brief admission, roughly five days, brought the disease to an international audience. The media spent time dissecting the distinction between Type I and Type II Bipolar disorder. The width and depth of coverage this story engendered is staggering, and from an educational perspective this was extremely beneficial in opening up discussions about mental health.
Because the nature, history and details of her actual condition, notwithstanding the admission, are personal and private, we want to shift our focus in this story to echoing what parts of the media did, focusing on the distinction between bipolar type I and type II.
Let’s go over some distinctions about type I and type II. Bipolar is a lifelong condition, usually starting in childhood with recurrent episodes throughout a lifetime. People with bipolar type I have extreme manic phases where the elevated mood is obvious and the abnormal behaviour manifests clearly – shopping binges, sexual promiscuity often people believe they have special superpowers or heightened perception.
People with bipolar type II have less intense phases when mood is elated, called hypomania, which are mild manic symptoms. Bipolar exists in a spectrum, some forms of the illness are worse than others. The low mood of despair and depression is likely to last longer for type II.
From Web MD:
In bipolar II disorder, the “up” moods never reach full-on mania; The less-intense elevated moods in bipolar II disorder are called hypomanic episodes, or hypomania. A person affected by bipolar II disorder has had at least one hypomanic episode in life.*
Bipolar can also be triggered by stress. In Zeta-Jones’ case her husband, Michael Douglas’ battle with throat cancer was the precipitation reason.
Bipolar is a treatable illness as Catherine Zeta-Jones’ case clearly shows. You can have a family and a successful career and still have this condition. In this way you are beating the condition, you are not allowing it to take away the joys of family, the pleasures and reward of career and hard work, and the enriching and valuable presence of friends.
Bipolar affects around 3% of the American population and countless millions around the world. There’s no doubt that psychoeduation plays a key role in helping people with bipolar. Understanding and learning about what could potentially trigger an episode and planning accordingly in terms of sleep, medication and other ways to manage is often done between the person with bipolar and a treating professional, like a psychiatrist or psychologist. Like bipolar I, medication to stabilize mood is often very beneficial for bipolar II. Zeta-Jones has shown that sometimes you do need extra help in recover, and there is definitely no shame in that.
Catherine Zeta-Jones told People magazine:
This is a disorder that affects millions of people and I am one of them… If my revelation of having bipolar II has encouraged one person to seek help, then it is worth it. There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help.
We commend her for coming forward. It really helps people going through the condition feel less alone, we also hope her story inspires others to do the same.
How Catherina Zeta-Jones beat depression
She knew she needed help and sought sound medical treatment.
She checked herself into a rehabilitation facility to get help to better manage stress and cope with her condition.
References and further reading
ABC News Excellent video which discusses the distinction between bipolar I and II
WEB MD Helpful visual guide to help better grasp and understand bipolar disorder
Health.com Ten subtler signs of bipolar disorder
Healthland Spends time analyzing the difference between Bipolar I and II, worth reading
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