(NEW YORK) — Mariah Carey has revealed she was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, saying she is speaking out about her mental health now because she is “hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone.”
The 48-year-old pop music icon, who has sold more than 200 million records throughout her decades-long career, said she was first diagnosed with bipolar II disorder when she was hospitalized in 2001.
“I didn’t believe it,” Carey told People magazine of her diagnosis. “I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to carry around the stigma of a lifelong disease that would define me and potentially end my career.”
“I was so terrified of losing everything, I convinced myself the only way to deal with this was to not deal with this,” Carey added.
She said she only recently started receiving treatment for it, but before that, “lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me.”
The five-time Grammy Award-winner told the magazine that she is “in a really good place right now” and “comfortable discussing my struggles with bipolar II disorder.”
Carey added that she hopes to break the stigma that quells conversations about mental illness.
“It can be incredibly isolating,” she added. “It does not have to define you, and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”
Carey said she is now taking medication to treat the disorder but is also “exercising, getting acupuncture, eating healthy, spending quality time with my kids and doing what I love, which is writing songs and making music.”
She told the magazine that she hopes fans can read her story “and not be like, ‘Oh my God. what’s wrong with Mariah?'”
“Hopefully they’ll just understand I’m doing this with the hope of helping others, and also because it’s going to be a freeing experience for me,” she said.
What to know about bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder, or 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,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Bipolar II disorder includes a “pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes,” — but not the longer manic episodes that last at least seven days, which is seen in people with bipolar I disorder, according to the NIMH.
Manic episodes are associated with an increased activity level, while depressive episodes are the opposite, characterized by a low energy level, according to Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent.
“The key is that cycling,” she said. “If someone has a manic episode, the theory is in some period of time they will eventually fall down to have a depressive episode, and it’s the closeness of that cycling that really determines those swings.”
Treatment for bipolar disorder is not “one size fits all,” Ashton said.
Treatment options include medication — the mainstay treatment option — cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, lectroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and sleep therapies, Ashton noted.
Carey’s not immediately seeking treatment after her diagnosis is not uncommon, according to Ashton.
“We have to remember with mental illness, and bipolar disorder in particular, there is no shame in this game,” she said. “Mariah did not come forward really to seek good treatment for herself, and that is not uncommon.”
She continued, “And if you think someone [who is a] celebrity, with all of her resources, can be stigmatized and held back, think what the average person goes through.”
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