According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “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. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.”
Bipolar disorder causes both mania – an overexcited, happy mood, or, on the opposite pole, severely depressed mood. These two can sometimes combine to form a mixed state, where the person may suffer from both types at one time. The NIMH list of symptoms of mania includes: talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts, being easily distracted, increasing goal-directed activities, such as taking on new projects, being restless, sleeping little, having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities, behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable, high-risk activities such as spending sprees, impulsive sex and impulsive business investments. The list of depressive symptoms are listed as: feeling tired or “slowed down”, having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions, being restless or irritable, changing eating, sleeping, or other habits, thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.
Her infamous breakdown in 2008 and the events that led to it is documented by USA Today, full of erratic behavior that eventually leads to her hospitalization and starts the still-continuing conservatorship her father has control of to protect her.
The Nirvana artist eventually committed suicide, tragically. This is not surprising in that estimates suggest that up to 20% of individuals with bipolar attempt suicide, and 10% are successful. His cousin, Bev Cobain, gave an interview that revealed Kurt’s diagnosis, and suggested his non-compliance with his prescribed therapies.
While Marilyn’s bipolar was perhaps unknown during her life, the AMC documentary on her life clearly indicates that she was, in fact, bipolar. Her eventual suicide was yet another life lost senselessly to bipolar disorder.
The “Terminator” star made headlines when, in 2004, she went public with her bipolar diagnosis.
The famous singer from Ireland first publicized her struggles with bipolar (including a suicide attempt) post-Britney breakdown. She offered support and advice publicly for Britney as well, knowing what living life day to day with bipolar is truly like.
The famous actress Patty Duke also lives with bipolar disorder. She has given many interviews about her life with bipolar, and even has a section on her official website dedicated to the disorder.
Congressman Kennedy had long had issues with bipolar before his infamous wreck in D.C. or his drug addiction battles. His detailed account of his life-long struggle is described on BP Hope.
The actor from “General Hospital” is bipolar, and advocates strongly for those who are diagnosed with the disorder. He talks about bipolar and its effects on his life at BP Hope.
TV journalist Jane Pauley gives a hopeful story of bipolar disorder on the BP Hope website. She is, in fact, one of the most positive voices of bipolar disorder around.
Jean-Claude Van Damme
According to BP Lives, Van Damme (actor, martial arts) has rapid-cycling bipolar, which means his moods shift more than four times a year.
Because of the stigma still associated with bipolar disorder, there are likely many more bipolar celebrities than these confirmed individuals.