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Fame and celebrity

Mariah Carey reveals she ‘lived in denial and isolation’ during decade-long battle with bipolar disorder

The singer said she initially thought she just had problems sleeping - but she was suffering from mania, one half of bipolar disorder, which kept her working to exhaustion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 April, 2018, 12:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 April, 2018, 6:46am

Mariah Carey has revealed that she has long been battling bipolar disorder, explaining that after years of suffering in silence, “I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”

The 48-year-old singer-songwriter described how the mental health condition has affected her and her attempts to cope in an interview published in People magazine’s April 23 issue,.

“For a long time I thought I had a severe sleep disorder,” she said. “But it wasn’t normal insomnia and I wasn’t lying awake counting sheep. I was working and working and working … I was irritable and in constant fear of letting people down. It turns out that I was experiencing a form of mania. 

Eventually I would just hit a wall. I guess my depressive episodes were characterised by having very low energy. I would feel so lonely and sad - even guilty that I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing for my career.”

In 2001, Carey checked herself into the hospital for what her publicist called “an emotional and physical breakdown” and was placed under psychiatric care.

The former publicist, Cindi Berger, said in a statement at the time that Carey had fallen ill after finishing filming two movies, Glitter and Wise Girls, while also producing the soundtrack to Glitter.

Carey told People that it was during a hospitalisation in 2001 that she was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder – which, she said, she “didn’t want to believe”.

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“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she told the magazine. “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.”

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental health condition characterised by extreme mood swings, from “ups” (mania) to “downs” (depression), according to NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health.

There are different types of bipolar disorder. People with bipolar I disorder can experience manic episodes lasting a week or more and often require hospitalisation. 

Bipolar II disorder, which Carey says she has, is less severe; the “ups” are not as extreme and are referred to as “hypomanic” episodes instead of “manic” episodes, according to NIH.

“People with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotion, changes in sleep patterns and activity levels, and unusual behaviours. These distinct periods are called ‘mood episodes.’

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Mood episodes are drastically different from the moods and behaviours that are typical for the person. Extreme changes in energy, activity, and sleep go along with mood episodes,” NIH said

Carey, a music idol and a mother to 6-year-old twins Monroe and Moroccan, said she is now managing her bipolar disorder with therapy and medication.

“I’m actually taking medication that seems to be pretty good. It’s not making me feel too tired or sluggish or anything like that. Finding the proper balance is what is most important,” she told People.

The artist said she is speaking out about her battle with bipolar disorder because she wants to help eliminate the stigma associated with such conditions.

“I’m just in a really good place right now, where I’m comfortable discussing my struggles with bipolar II disorder,” she told People.

“I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone. It can be incredibly isolating. It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”

Carey, once dubbed “songbird supreme” by the Guinness World Records, has had 18 No 1 hits and sold more than 200 million records, according to People.