With their seemingly perfect shell, it’s easy to forget that celebrities are human—and they’re at risk of health problems like everyone else. Case in point: several famous people and celebrities with bipolar disorder have gone public with their diagnosis.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that over 12 million Americans (4.4% of the population) experience bipolar episodes at one point in their lives. With such a prevalence, it’s unsurprising that some household names have been diagnosed and spoken out about living with the condition.
This article looks at famous people with bipolar disorder whose experiences have helped dispel stigmas surrounding the mental health condition.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
To quote the NIMH, “Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.” It is a complex and sometimes debilitating condition.
The signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder vary between individuals. But to receive a diagnosis, a person must present an episode of hypomania or mania. Both symptoms involve feelings of high energy and impulsivity. Other people may also experience extremely low or depressive moods.
There are 3 types of diagnosable bipolar disorder, including bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia.
Celebrities With Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is not talked about enough. And the conversations that exist are mostly shrouded behind false stereotypes and blanket assumptions.
The stigma associated with bipolar disorder can chip away at the confidence and self-worth of people with the mental illness. This is why fostering more compassionate conversations with the help of celebrities with bipolar disorder is important.
Here is a list of 7 famous people with bipolar disorder:
First on our list of celebrities with bipolar disorder is Kanye West. Ye is arguably one of the most acclaimed hip-hop artists of his generation. But despite his successes in the music and fashion industries, the Grammy-winning rapper has frequently stirred controversy.
His erratic behavior has since been attributed to bipolar disorder. In an interview with David Letterman, Ye opened up about his experience with the mental health issue, describing it as a “sprained brain.”
As reported by Good Morning America, Kanye’s words were echoed by Kim Kardashian, who went public saying, “As many of you know, Kanye has bipolar disorder. Anyone who has this or has a loved one in their life who does, knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand.”
Mariah Carey (aka the “Songbird Supreme” and “Queen of Christmas”) is a legendary diva with a near-endless list of achievements. But even as she inspired generations with her singing styles and five-octave vocal range, she struggled with bipolar disorder.
In an interview with People, the songbird opened up about her struggles with the mental health illness and the stigma surrounding it. “Until recently, I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” Carey recounts.
“It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music.”
Mel Gibson has had a rather wild career, with highs and lows in equal measure. The Oscar-winning star and filmmaker who made his name starring in action hero roles has often been a victim of self-inflicted scandals that may tie back to bipolar disorder.
In the 2008 documentary, “Acting Class of 1977,” Gibson reportedly discussed his diagnosis of manic depression (now known as bipolar disorder). He described his feelings of highs and extreme lows, which are characteristic of the condition.
Next on our list of famous bipolar people is Selena Gomez. Speaking to Elle magazine, the former Disney star and pop star talked candidly about her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and how she got the help she needed.
“After years of going through a lot of different things, I realized I was bipolar,” she said in a 2020 interview. In another 2021 interview, she recounted: “I felt a huge weight lifted off me when I found out. I could take a deep breath and go, ‘Okay, that explains so much.'” Later in 2022, she told Good Morning America, “It [being diagnosed with bipolar disorder] made me really happy because I started to have a relationship with myself, and I think that’s the best part. Like, I’ve probably been the happiest I’ve ever been.”
As a celebrity with bipolar disorder, Gomez has made it her mission to normalize conversations around mental health issues
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Jean-Claude Van Damme is a certified action movie icon and another celebrity on our list of famous bipolar people. The Belgian actor seamlessly blended his background in bodybuilding, martial arts, and epic splits into one of the most successful acting careers of all time. But it was not all smooth sailing.
Away from the movie cameras, Van Damme’s personal life was crumbling under the weight of his mental health problems. It turns out he was living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, with the mental health issue driving him into training as a coping mechanism.
Sometimes it’s hard to come to terms with a mental health diagnosis. According to Scientific American, the late actress and author Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in Star Wars) was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 24—but rejected it for 4 years until a drug overdose.
“Only then was I able to see nothing else could explain away my behavior,” she said. “We have been given a challenging illness, and there is no other option than to meet those challenges.”
Capping off our list of famous people with bipolar disorder is Catherine Zeta-Jones. The Academy-winning actress and singer was diagnosed with bipolar II in 2011 following her husband Michael Douglas’ struggle with stage IV throat cancer.
According to a statement by Zeta-Jones’ publicist (as reported by ABC News): “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.”
Other Famous People and Celebrities With Bipolar Disorder
- Francis Ford Coppola
- Ray Davies of The Kinks
- Richard Dreyfuss
- Patrick J. Kennedy
- Rene Russo
- Charlie Sheen
- Ben Stiller
- Chris Brown
- Aaron Carter
It’s important to dispel the stigma and lack of knowledge surrounding bipolar disorder so that more people can get the help they need.
Endearing stories of celebrities with bipolar disorder help us foster empathy and raise awareness about the challenges associated with the mental health condition.
It’s not uncommon for someone suffering from bipolar disorder to also be suffering from addiction. In this case dual diagnosis treatment centers are recommended for recovery. If you are concerned that you or a loved one might be dealing with bipolar disorder, get help. There are treatment options available to help manage the mental health condition.
Kanye West by David Shankbone
Mariah Carey by WBLS
Mel Gibson by Georges Biard
Selena Gomez by The White House
Jean-Cluade Van Damn by David Shankbone
Carrie Fisher by Riccardo Ghilardi
Catherine Zeta-Jones by David Shankbone