Demi Lovato recently revealed she felt a sense of relief after she was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In this Healthline article, Mindpath Health’s Zishan Khan, MD, explains why it’s valuable when celebrities openly discuss their mental health diagnoses.
Demi Lovato is no stranger to going public with mental health challenges.
Lovato first revealed she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in an interview with PEOPLE in 2011. Now, she’s speaking up again, saying she felt “relieved” when she received the diagnosis while speaking at a Hollywood & Mind Summit in Los Angeles on May 11. Lovato hopes her candid remarks help others.
“I knew that if I could help others with their journey, then that’s exactly what I wanted to do,” Lovato said, according to a PEOPLE report. “And so, I decided to be open and honest about what I had finally learned about myself.”
Experts feel the same way — and believe such comments from people like Lovato can help change the way people view mental health.
“When Demi Lovato and other celebrities speak out, it can be really empowering for [them]… and for the community to see that people even at that celebrity status can have mental health struggles,” says Adam Gonzalez, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist. “It’s important for people in the spotlight to express their challenges so that people not in the spotlight, everyday people like ourselves, might be more comfortable sharing about their mental health struggles and seeking treatment.”
And one psychologist says Lovato’s remarks serve as a reminder that mental health is as important as physical health — and that it’s essential to continue to stop the stigma surrounding it.
“The question rings true: why do we feel comfortable openly admitting to having diabetes or high cholesterol but are ashamed to tell others about extreme anxiety or severe depression?” notes,” Dr. Zishan Khan, a psychiatrist and regional medical director at Mindpath Health.
A mental health diagnosis can bring relief
In 2019, more than 40 million people were living with bipolar disorder, according to a report from the World Health Organization.
Lovato was one of them. Fans knew that. But, though Lovato first discussed having bipolar in 2011, her latest comments may come as a surprise given the stigma around mental health (particularly more than a decade ago): The diagnosis brought relief.
“I was so relieved that I had finally had a diagnosis,” Lovato said. “I had spent so many years struggling, and I didn’t know why I was a certain way in dealing with depression at such extreme lows when I seemingly had the world in front of me just ripe with opportunities.”
Celebrity activism can help shake public misconceptions
The word “bipolar” can get misused in everyday conversations to describe certain behaviors.
“Sometimes, people will misuse the diagnosis and throw around the term colloquially, like, ‘Oh, that person is bipolar,’” says Gonzalez.
The level of distress — and the way it affects daily life and relationships — is important.
Now, because of people like Lovato, people know of at least one person — and the keyword is a person — who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder, defined
Bipolar disorder is often misunderstood in part because of the colloquial use of the term.
“Bipolar is thought of in relation to euphoric manias, but the highs are disabling, and the lows of depression that often follow can be even more devastating,” says Dr. David Merrill, psychiatrist and director of the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Pacific Brain Health Center in California.
Khan also notes that bipolar can present on a spectrum:
“Someone with bipolar I can experience at least one manic episode, while someone with bipolar II can experience a less intense hypomanic episode,” Khan explains. “People with cyclothymia will experience rapid cycling between hypomanic and depressive symptoms. Substance use can induce or exacerbate a bipolar state, as can a general medical condition that may be comorbid and improperly treated.”
A proper diagnosis is crucial
Experts say that Lovato’s comments can bring awareness, but her experiences — however relatable they may be — is not a substitute for a diagnosis.
“A proper diagnosis allows for prescribing of the right medications, therapies, and social support elements,” says Merrill.
There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but experts say it can be managed with the correct treatment, namely medications and psychotherapy.
You’re not alone if you have a mental illness like bipolar disorder
And that’s the biggest takeaway the mental health professionals Healthline spoke with want people to glean from Lovato’s comments: You’re not alone.
“As a society, mental health problems are really being spotlighted now because a lot of people are struggling post-COVID,” says Gonzalez. “Speaking up about this during this time when mental health challenges are on the rise is important.”
And experts say there’s no shame in a diagnosis – so give yourself and others grace.