Mariah Carey Just Revealed She’s Bipolar: What Is Bipolar II Disorder?

The singer was diagnosed in 2001.

Claire Lampen |

Mariah Carey just joined the growing list of celebrities opening up about their mental health: The the 48-year-old pop icon told People she was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder back in 2001.

“I didn’t want to believe it,” Mariah said of her initial diagnosis, for which she didn’t immediately seek treatment. “Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me.”

What Is Bipolar II Disorder?

There are actually four types of bipolar disorder — but in general, the condition is characterised by intense shifts in mood, energy and the inability to carry out daily tasks, according to the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

READ MORE: Why Demi Lovato Says She Doesn’t Want To Be Labelled As Bipolar 

Bipolar I disorder is known for its manic periods that typically last for about a week, and may require hospitalisation due to their severity. “In manic episodes, people may change their appearance and be more sexually suggestive, they may quite a successful career to start a new career in a field they are not qualified in or spend a significant amount of money they don’t have,” says clinical psychologist Dr Kevin Gilliland, author of Struggle Well, Live Well. “They often have very limited insight and judgment into how they are acting and being perceived by others.” This mania is followed by bouts of severe depression, Gilliland says.

Mariah has bipolar II disorder, characterised by hypomania, which is a much less severe. “People with hypomania rarely require hospitalisation,” says Gilliland. However, the depressive episodes in both bipolar I and bipolar II disorder can look the same, he says.

Mariah told People she initially thought she suffered from a sleep disorder:

READ MORE: This Explains EXACTLY What Bipolar Mood Disorder Is

I’m grateful to be sharing this part of my journey with you. @mrjesscagle @people

A post shared by Mariah Carey (@mariahcarey) on

The third type of bipolar disorder is known as cyclothymic disorder (defined as numerous periods of hypomania and depressive periods lasting for at least two years, but not meeting standard diagnostic requirements).

The fourth type: specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorders — or bipolar symptoms that don’t match any other categories.

READ MORE: 8 Questions Therapists Ask To Diagnose Bipolar Disorder

How Common Is Bipolar Disorder?

According to The South African Depression and Anxiety Group, three to four percent of South Africans suffer from bipolar disorder (that’s over four million!). And the NIMH estimates that roughly 4.4 percent of U.S. adults will have bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. (Demi Lovato has also been vocal about life with bipolar disorder.)

But bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed because people don’t tend to seek treatment during the manic highs; instead, they see a therapist during the low points, making it easy to accidentally diagnose the disorder as depression.

According to People, Mariah only started a therapy and medication course “recently” (she did not specify exactly when), despite being diagnosed in 2001.

READ MORE: This Video Perfectly Captures What Depression Feels Like​

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

Although the past few years have been “the hardest couple of years I’ve been through,” Mariah said she’s faring much better with treatment.

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

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