The Cost Of Creativity: Bipolar Disorder and the Stars

The stereotype of the tortured artist shows up often in popular culture: a frazzle-haired composer pacing about his room, a troubled starlet, a crazed novelist with a bad case of writer's block.

Along with that stereotype comes an assumption -- that the hyper highs and crushing lows that we witness in some of our celebrities is a sign of bipolar disorder.

In fact, it's rumored that many of the notable artists in history -- including Beethoven, Lord Byron and Charles Dickens -- suffered from the disorder.

"There is such a thing known as artistic temperament," said Dr. Igor Galynker, director of The Family Center for Bipolar Disorder at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and professor of clinical of psychiatry Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "And it's kind of conducive to creativity."

So might there be a bipolar "epidemic" among artists?

"It sort of makes intuitive sense," said Dr. Dost Ongur, clinical director of the schizophrenia and bipolar disorder program at McLean Hospital, a psychiatrist hospital in Belmont, Mass. "Some of the things that go into bipolar disorder on the manic side, some of the traits -- thinking fast, creativity, charisma, charm -- can be very positive."

But doctors are quick to note that the connection between celebrities and bipolar disorder isn't ironclad.

For instance, Galynker says that unusual behavior from some celebrities may be due to drug and alcohol use, but instead they get misdiagnosed with a mind disorder.

"It's the diagnosis du jour," Galynker said.

Furthermore, doctors note that it's hard to determine whether celebrities have bipolar disorder at any higher rates than the rest of the population.

"Just by chance, there's going to be 2 percent of people who have it [in any group of the population]," Ongur said.

Still, doctors admit that, for whatever reason, bipolar disorder seems to crop up more often in artists and celebrities.

The stars listed here have opened up about their struggles with bipolar disorder, revealing the inevitable highs and lows of this challenging condition.

Pete Wentz

Pete Wentz, 28, is the bassist for Grammy-nominated pop punk band Fall Out Boy. "Sugar, We're Goin Down," a single off the band's 2005 album, "From Under the Cork Tree," went to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, but the song's title parallels Wentz's battle with bipolar disorder.

"I have manic depression. I obsess over everything," Wentz told Britain's Q Magazine.

Wentz was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teenager. He also takes medication for anxiety and sleep.



In February 2005, Wentz passed out from an overdose of anxiety medications, although he denied that it was a suicide attempt.

"I was isolating myself further and further," Wentz told Rolling Stone Magazine. "And the more I isolated myself, the more isolated I'd feel. I wasn't sleeping. I just wanted my head to shut off, like, I just wanted to completely stop thinking about anything at all."

Wentz, who is in a relationship with pop singer Ashlee Simpson, seems to have his disorder under control, for the most part.



"When I am depressed, I can't get out of bed," Wentz said. "But right now, it's sunny and 65 in my head, so it's OK!"

Phil Spector

The producer of hits such as "Unchained Melody" and "Imagine" is known for his prolific career and disturbing behavior. Throughout his history of smash-hits and scandals, Spector says bipolar disorder has been a constant curse.

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