Catherine Zeta-Jones' Battle With Bipolar Disorder Brings Attention to Bipolar Symptoms

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Apr. 14 2011, Published 5:26 a.m. ET

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In a surprising announcement, Catherine Zeta-Jones' rep confirmed that the Oscar-winning actress sought medical treatment, at a mental health institution, for bipolar II disorder. Catherine was a pillar of strength for her husband, Michael Douglas, during his battle with throat cancer, and her diagnosis has brought attention to the symptoms of the disease, in particular that it can strike any time in someone's life and can be caused by stress.

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CeCe Yorke, Catherine’s publicist, confirmed to OK! yesterday, “After dealing with the stress of the past year, Catherine made the decision to check into a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat her bipolar II disorder. She’s feeling great and looking forward to starting work this week on her two upcoming films.”


Catherine, 41, reportedly was stricken with the the disorder's wild mood swings after  Michael's high-profile, six-month battle with stage IV throat cancer.

According to ABC News, bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is "a mental illness characterized by mood swings between the two psychological pulls of depression and euphoria."

"It can start at any time in a person's life and it's a lifelong illness," Dr. Igor Galynker, director of the Family Center for Bipolar Disorder at Beth Israel Medical Center told ABC News.

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Bipolar II, which Catherine has been diagnosed with, is a form of the disorder which is characterized by longer low periods and stress is a common trigger of the disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Symptoms include prolonged feelings of agitation, trouble sleeping, major changes in appetite and thoughts of suicide.

Catherine Zeta-Jones
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Michael, 66, announced in January he was declared cancer-free by his doctors after  six-months of chemotherapy and radiation for a tumor on his tongue.

The stress of her husband's illness could have led to Catherine's current condition.

"It is not curable, but it is treatable with medications and psychotherapy." said Galynker. "People with bipolar illness can have productive lives like anybody else, once they're in treatment and compliant with treatment."

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Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor, said the most important step is to recognize that you have the disorder, so the proper treatment can be administered.

"When it comes to mental illness, you talk about it more as controlled and managed and it's something she will probably be dealing with for her entire life," Besser said.

Catherine's openness with the public about her disorder may also help others with the condition seek help.

"No matter what the reason, it was courageous on her part to own this to such a specificity," ABC News consultant Howard Bragman told Good Morning America. "I think it will create a teachable moment in a dialogue among health care people, among normal people."

Watch experts discuss Catherine's condition below.


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