Photo: Mariah Carey/Instagram and Lee Joon Fan Page/Facebook 

Mental illnesses like bipolar disorder is a pretty touchy subject to talk about, so thankfully, more celebrities are shining a spotlight on it in an attempt to raise awareness about the disorder and decrease the stigma surrounding an issue that affects many.

According to Singhealth, bipolar affects 1 per cent of adults in Singapore aged between 20 to 40.  So, when public figures like singer Mariah Carey and K-pop idol Lee Joon speak publicly about mental illness and bipolar, it sends a powerful message to people around the globe who are facing this debilitating condition or have encountered it at some point in time.

In a recent interview for People Magazine, one of the most successful singers of all time, Mariah Carey opened up about her struggle with bipolar disorder. The singer who is currently in therapy and taking medication for bipolar II disorder was first diagnosed in 2001 but hesitated to seek treatment because she was “in denial and in constant fear that someone would expose me (her)”. She eventually caved in and sought treatment because “it was too much of a burden to carry" and she “simply couldn’t do that anymore”.

 

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Mariah is certainly not the only celebrity to open up about the condition. In 2010, South Korean idol from the band MBLAQ, Lee Joon, made headlines when he revealed that he suffers from both insomnia and a severe bipolar disorder. In the same interview with the Korean media, he shared that the mental and physical stress induced by his busy schedule and inability to sleep was what triggered his bipolar disorder.  

Their message is loud and clear – mental illness is a condition that can affect anyone and everyone – and there’s no shame in admitting to it and more importantly getting treated for it.  Here’s what you need to know about bipolar disorder.

 

What is bipolar disorder?

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While it’s normal for one’s mood to vary from day to day, frequent and extreme mood swings can signal a bigger problem. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. The term “bipolar” refers to two extremes of mood – depressed (“low”) and maniac (“high”). They may feel overly elated and hyper energetic (that is not in keeping with their usual self) one day, and sad and hopeless the next, without any external circumstances to explain the change. The frequency of these episodes of extreme mood swings can vary from several times a day to once every few months or years.

Like with most mental illnesses, there are varying severities of this disorder. In severe cases, the person may become more agitated than usual. The disorder has a high social impact. According to the Centre For Psychological Wellness, patients with bipolar disorders may end up losing their jobs and dissolving their marriages. It has also been found that sufferers could take to excessive drinking of alcohol as a result of the illness.

 

What causes bipolar disorder?

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There is no single cause of bipolar. The risk of bipolar disorder is higher if a parent or sibling has the disorder. Chemical disruptions in the brain like dysfunction in neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine are also possible causes of bipolar disorder. Imaging studies show that there are structural and functional changes in the brains of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder.