Catherine’s courageous confession.

Catherine’s courageous confession.

Despite being one of the most famous and talented actresses in Hollywood, Catherine Zeta- Jones has lived life as private a life as she possibly can.  In the public eye, she has taken her successes in stride.  She’s won countless awards, including a Tony and an Oscar, and has managed to make a Hollywood marriage to fellow

Despite being one of the most famous and talented actresses in Hollywood, Catherine Zeta- Jones has lived life as private a life as she possibly can.  In the public eye, she has taken her successes in stride.  She’s won countless awards, including a Tony and an Oscar, and has managed to make a Hollywood marriage to fellow actor Michael Douglas work for almost 15 years. That’s why it sent shockwaves among her fans as well as her colleagues when she came forward to admit publicly that she suffered from Bipolar II Disorder.

Bipolar I and Bipolar II Disorders were once commonly known as manic depression. The difference between them is that Bipolar I Disorder involves manic episodes. In other words, the person acts in a way that is not only out of character for his or her personality, but severely different to the point of being viewed as abnormal behavior in society. A person with Bipolar I may be delusional and be subject to hallucinations. Manic episodes may last weeks and could require hospitalization.

A person suffering from Bipolar II Disorder, like Zeta-Jones has, experiences two very opposing psychological moods:  euphoria and depression. A person with Bipolar II may experience very strong mood swings but nothing as severe as with Bipolar I. The highs and lows one experiences are not so harsh as to warrant anomalous behavior. Although a person with Bipolar II is more likely to continue everyday activities without interruption, they do experience longer periods of depression.

Bipolar II Disorder is often brought on by prolonged stress and can happen at any time in life. According to WebMD, symptoms may manifest as early as teenage years, and usually before age 50. In the case of Zeta-Jones, it is believed that her Bipolar II diagnosis was brought on by a combination of difficult events, causing an enormous amount of stress.

The first stressful event was husband Michael Douglas’ battle with stage IV throat cancer. The other was a very public court battle with Douglas’ ex- wife over proceeds from the “Wall Street” movie sequel. Both of these events led to Zeta-Jones checking herself into a mental health facility proactively in 2011. After separating from her husband in 2013, Zeta-Jones returned to rehab, successfully completing the program and later reuniting with her family. Douglas told the press this summer that the couple is doing better than ever and they have recommitted to their marriage.

Supporting one another and their children is clearly a priority in their relationship. Douglas has not only supported her, he has very publicly expressed the pride he feels in his wife’s proactive approach to the illness. He told the press recently that he loves his wife now more than ever following their split and he’s very proud of her for coming forward about her condition. He also said that beating cancer has helped give him a new perspective on life. Over the summer, Zeta-Jones and their two children joined Douglas as he received the Genesis award in Jerusalem and then again on the red carpet for the premiere of his latest movie, “Ant-Man.” It was during this same time that Douglas’ mother lost her battle with cancer and the actress was there to comfort her husband.

Catherine Zeta-Jones’ openness about this illness has been a very brave move. Not only has she told the world she has Bipolar II, she has shared when she has sought treatment, giving others the courage do to the same and seek much needed help. This has opened up a dialogue within the media, giving medical professionals an opportunity to talk openly about the disease without carting around the usual “stigma” attached to a mental health issue. This disease affects approximately six million people including many other celebrities such as Sting, Demi Lovato, Russell Brand, Britney Spears and Ben Stiller.

Though there is no cure for Bipolar II, regular therapy in combination with medication can control the illness. By following the example of Catherine Zeta-Jones, people with Bipolar II Disorder may find the balance in life that is missing. Not only has she stayed one step ahead of the illness by checking herself into treatment facilities, she says she plans to do this regularly as part of her quest to stay healthy.

By talking openly about the disease and being proactive in her treatment, Zeta-Jones has provided an admirable example how to manage this disease. Additionally, she is urging others in need of treatment to seek similar help through trained mental health professionals.

By Susan Neuhalfen

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