Celebrity bipolar cases spark self-diagnosis trend
THE current clutch of celebrities willing to come forward and talk publicly about their struggles with bipolar disorder may have resulted in an unusual trend – a growing number of people diagnosing themselves with the condition.
Two British psychiatrists said in a recent editorial that “despite the stigma attached to mental illness, we have noticed in our clinical practice a new and unusual phenomenon, where patients present with self-diagnosed bipolar disorder”.
They believed the phenomenon was a direct result of celebrities talking openly about their personal experiences.
“The increasing popularity of bipolar disorder may be attributed to increased media coverage, coupled with the high social status associated with celebrities such as [British TV personality] Stephen Fry, talking about their own personal experiences of mental illness,” said Dr Diana Chan and Dr Lester Sireling.
Other high-profile celebrities such as former rugby league player Andrew Johns, former international cricketer Michael Slater and actor Mel Gibson have also gone public about their condition.
However, the increasing public awareness of the condition had caused a number of patients to “want to be bipolar”, they said, but without understanding the consequences of being diagnosed.
“Current evidence suggests that bipolar disorder may be underdiagnosed… with a significant delay to diagnosis,” they said.
“The challenge for the primary care physician is in either making or excluding the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and then sensitively dealing with the patient who wants to be bipolar.”
About one in every 100 adults is said to experience bipolar disorder at some point in their lives, although some experts believed the figure might actually be as high as 11 in 100, they said.
The Psychiatrist 2010;34:103-5