Catherine Zeta-Jones Hopes to Remove Stigma Around Bipolar Disorder

Actress hopes to others suffering silently with the disorder.

ByAmanda Keegan and Leezel Tanglao
April 19, 2011, 11:59 PM

April 20, 2011— -- After revealing she suffers from bipolar disorder, Academy Award-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is hoping to help remove some of the stigma from the illness and convince others to seek the help they need.

Last week, Zeta-Jones' publicist said she recently checked into a mental health facility to treat her bipolar II disorder.

She spent five days in that facility and is now on medication.

The actress released a statement saying, "this is a disorder that affects millions of people and I am one of them...if my revelation of having bipolar II has encouraged one person to seek help...then it's worth it."

Bipolar disorder, which is also known as manic depressive illness, is a mental illness that is described by mood swings between the two psychological pulls of depression and euphoria.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, stress is one trigger for the disorder.

Bouts of Depression

Friends say Zeta-Jones knew she was depressed. But not until she checked herself into a mental health facility did she find out that she is bipolar.

The actress is featured in this week's People magazine and friends reportedly tell the magazine that Zeta-Jones had been struggling with bouts of depression even before her husband, actor Michael Douglas was diagnosed with stage IV throat cancer.

They said she sought help because she is about to film a new movie.

"I think she also looked at Michael and said he was given a second chance so we have been given a second chance I want to celebrate our life together and this was really the step to do that," said Sharon Cotliar of People magazine.

Friends told the magazine that Zeta-Jones was functioning at a high level, sad, but struggling.

"What they initially thought was depression and only found out that when she went to this hospital that in fact it was bipolar II disorder…very simple bouts of depression, at first not seeming to be too overwhelming, to getting increasingly overwhelming, and to the point to where she was having a hard time getting up in the morning," said Cotliar.

Helping Others

Doctors say Zeta-Jones' candor will be helpful to other adults suffering silently with bipolar.

"I think Catherine Zeta-Jones has broken a huge taboo by actually talking about bipolar. This is a serious illness that affects a good 2 to 3 percent of the population -- to actually talk about it not only bravely but with some candor is a heroic thing to do," said Dr. Soroya Bacchus, a psychiatrist. "That kind of heroism inspires people to talk about their own issues and maybe seek treatment that they never would have done unless Catherine Zeta-Jones of stature, her celebrity would have talked about this."

ABC News' Lara Salahi contributed to this report.

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