People: Mariah Carey was diagnosed with bipolar disorder back in 2001

A pregnant Khloe Kardashian changes into Yeezys at the studio to be more comfortable

Well, this explains a lot. Mariah Carey covers the new issue of People Magazine, and it’s because she’s opening up about being bipolar. I’m old enough to remember Mariah Carey’s 2001 “breakdown,” which is how it was characterized at the time. Carey seemed to lose the thread on live television, on MTV’s TRL. There were jokes about it across the board, and the official excuse at the time was that she was “exhausted.” Over the years, we’ve just gotten used to Mariah’s idiosyncratic nature, because we thought that’s what it was – that she was healthy in mind and body, but she was just weird/lazy or an unhinged diva. But she was dealing with her bipolar disorder this whole time. Some highlights from Mariah’s People cover story:

The first diagnosis: Although she was first diagnosed in 2001 (when she was hospitalized for a physical and mental breakdown), “I didn’t want to believe it…I didn’t want to carry around the stigma of a lifelong disease that would define me and potentially end my career. … I was so terrified of losing everything, I convinced myself the only way to deal with this was to not deal with this.” Carey says she finally sought treatment recently after “the hardest couple of years I’ve been through” — years of professional upheaval, an E! reality show and romantic drama.

She worried she could be exposed: “Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me. It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music.”

How she’s doing now: She is now in therapy and taking medication for bipolar II disorder, which involves periods of depression as well as hypomania (less severe than the mania associated with bipolar I disorder, but can still cause irritability, sleeplessness and hyperactivity). “I’m actually taking medication that seems to be pretty good. It’s not making me feel too tired or sluggish or anything like that. Finding the proper balance is what is most important. For a long time I thought I had a severe sleep disorder. But it wasn’t normal insomnia and I wasn’t lying awake counting sheep. I was working and working and working … I was irritable and in constant fear of letting people down. It turns out that I was experiencing a form of mania. Eventually I would just hit a wall. I guess my depressive episodes were characterized by having very low energy. I would feel so lonely and sad — even guilty that I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing for my career.”

[From People Magazine]

This diagnosis does make a lot of sense, looking back on it – she would go to such extremes, from extreme happiness to barely being able to get out of bed or leave her apartment. It also makes sense that she didn’t want to seek treatment or medication for so many years – so many artists suffer from mental health issues, and so many artists worry that if they seek medication, it will make it harder for them to create, to work. Plus, Mariah was probably genuinely terrified that she would be exposed. As I said, I remember the jokes about her mental state back in the day. Now that we’re in 2018, we know more about mental health and mental illness.

Nickelodeon's 2018 Kids' Choice Awards

Cover courtesy of People Mag, additional photos courtesy of WENN.

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29 Responses to “People: Mariah Carey was diagnosed with bipolar disorder back in 2001”

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  1. Ms says:

    Wow. I feel for her. Bipolar Disorder is such a tough condition to get ahold of sometimes. Glad she is getting help.

  2. elimaeby says:

    My partner suffers from bipolar disorder, and this all really makes sense to me: her euphoric moods, hiding out for days to weeks at a time, self-medication, irritability. It’s not an easy thing to deal with. I hope she stays well and takes good care of herself.

  3. Ohmaygash says:

    I have a new found respect for Mariah for revealing her disorder. This will help many others struggling (it helps to feel like you’re not alone) and help break down stigma when it comes to mental illness.

    • Dee says:

      Me too. Major kudos.

    • Livvers says:

      Yes, when I think of how integral to her life the public image management of being a pop diva has been, to choosing to be vulnerable and open like this. Serious respect.

  4. NameChange says:

    Good on Mariah for addressing it head-on finally. All the best to her.

  5. minx says:

    Aw, I love Mimi! Hope she’s doing well.

  6. launicaangelina says:

    I’m 37 and remember when the initial breakdown occurred. Looking back, it truly makes sense. I understand her fear of revealing this, but I’m so happy she finally felt comfortable doing so and on her terms. Collectively, we can break down the stigmas associated with mental health disorders. I’m open about my anxiety and depression to do my part.

    • ValiantlyVarnished says:

      I’m 37 as well and I watched the breakdown in real time. I also suffer from depression and talk about it as openly as I can (some days I am more open about it than others) to normalize and de-stigmatize it. So many people suffer from depression. A lot of the times the moment I mention it the floodgates open and it starts a dialogue and its amazing to see.

      • Milla says:

        It’s ironic that theres so much stigma. Yet, most people do have at least panic attaks or anxiety. Not to mention other disorders.
        We are living in an unhealthy world and it doesn’t seem like it will get better soon. We need to take care of ourselves and others, people around us. Talk and listen.

      • IMUCU says:


        How do you talk about it? I have depression too and struggle with how to be open about it, even though I want to be….

    • Winnie says:

      I usually start with “I take antidepressants and they are fantastic!” Or “I used to have severe depression but now I’m much better”. The other person usually gets a look of relief on their face and starts to talk about their own problems with similar stuff.

  7. Zondie says:

    I hope her treatment continues to help.

  8. roses says:

    Good for her to address it and get the help she needs!

  9. JA says:

    Hopefully some ppl make amends and apologize for mocking her and her breakdown on live television *cough MTV CARSON DALY NUMEROUS OTHERS cough*

  10. ValiantlyVarnished says:

    This makes SO much sense. I’m glad that she is getting the treatment she needs and is talking about it. Someone as famous as her talking about mental health will only help to de-stigmatize it.

  11. Boo says:

    Is she revealing this now because James Packer was recently admitted to a hospital in CA for a mental breakdown?

  12. kynesgrove89 says:

    Damn. I feel for her. I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 two years ago and it has been hell trying to get healthy again. 🙁

  13. cr says:

    My friend, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder some 20 years, watched Mariah in 2001 and went’ ‘she’s somewhere on the bipolar spectrum’.
    I’m glad that Mariah finally feels that she can be public with it, that it’s not a mark of shame.

  14. Tila says:

    I was diagnosed with bipolar type 1 after having a breakdown at the end of 2017. I am lucky as i received psychiatric care straight away (NHS) and did not have to be an inpatient. I also have a fantastic support network of friends around me.
    I would always wonder why I can be so serendipitous and lost a number of friends over the years due to me being ‘flakey’. The diagnosis was one of the best things that has ever happened to me but it’s still a challenge every day.
    To those on here who have any sort of mental health illness – you are not alone and you are not defined by it.

  15. Harryg says:

    It’s great mental illness is nowadays talked about like any other illness. And this explains why she can go from normal to “weird” so fast.

  16. Cee says:

    Hopefully she will remain in therapy and will never decide to stop taking her meds. It’s also important her children grow up knowing this is a disease that can be treated, and with balance, people can carry on with their lives with normalcy. Bipolar disorder is usually inherited and can be triggered at any point (in women it usually happens after childbirth)

    I’ve just completed my treatment for depression and I understand how isolating mental illnesses can be. I am both scared and happy at what the future brings without my medication but I will never forget what having a mental breakdown did to me and how crucial it was to seek psychiatric help ASAP.

  17. Britney says:

    I remember TRL like it was yesterday, and I remember at the time being so concerned for Mariah’s well being after that manic appearance in her underwear. I applaud Mariah for bringing attention to mental illness. That took a lot of guts to do. Hopefully we can end the stigma with more conversation. I hope Mariah gets the help she needs, and I hope it inspires others in the industry who may be struggling with mental illness to speak out about their experiences and show others that they’re not alone. Money and fame can’t fix everything, and we’ve lost so many talented people to mental illness. If Mariah speaking out can save one person, that’s enough for me.

  18. CairinaCat says:

    I’m bipolar I and II and mixed episode rapid cycle, also OCD, Various anxiety disorders, depression ADD
    All of these are affect disorders and it is very common to have a combo

    People with OCD (and OCD manifests in many ways, not the traditional “Monk” type )can also be bipolar.
    But bipolar people are almost always also OCD
    Alot of affect disorders have similar behaviors which can make it difficult to diagnose properly.

    A lot of women don’t get a correct diagnosis until the 30’s when euphoric manina tends to happen more.
    Depressive bipolar behaviors and mixed episode generally gets you diagnosed as clinical depression and put on a antidepressant without a mood stabilizer.

    Mariah and Brittney to me looked very much like onset bipolar when they flipped out.
    Luckily medications seem to be helping them control it for the most part.

    It’s very hard when your artistic, the mood stabilizers flatten your affect and squash your creativity. So a lot of times you have to make the choice between being healthy and being able to create.

  19. Elevate says:

    I think it can be dangerous to say “it all makes sense now.” It’s only up to her and her doctors to analyze her behavior. Symptoms are real. But making the assumption that erratic behavior = bipolar disorder is one of the reasons stigma endures. That’s not too different from saying “stop acting so bipolar” if someone behaves too dramatically. I’m not saying you would ever say that, but that’s what it can feel like.

    I say this as someone who was diagnosed with bipolar 1 five years ago and have on medication and attending therapy ever since.

    It’s good to applaud her for getting help, but psychoanalzying her isn’t fair and it isn’t your job. You’re right this time. You won’t always be.

    • ... nik. says:

      Great comment.

    • Shannon says:

      Agreed ^^^ I was diagnosed as bipolar 2 a few years back, and only people who are close to me would know. I’ve never gone out in my underwear or anything (I’m sure it affects different people in different ways of course – Mariah’s under a lot more pressure a lot of the time, which can trigger). Coworkers of mine wouldn’t have a clue, acquaintances wouldn’t have a clue. I remember Mariah’s breakdown as well and I worried for her – I’m glad she’s in a good place now. But when you say something about someone who was “acting crazy” and reveals they have bipolar like, “Now it all makes sense” it’s stigmatizing in its own way. Comments like that are the reason a lot of us don’t disclose our diagnosis; I mean, I never have to anyone but my parents. (Well, I mean, here as well but y’all don’t know me LOL) It’s not at all unmanageable.

  20. Emily says:

    I applaud her for this. No matter how much you’ve accepted your own mental health issues you can’t control how other people will perceive them.

    I have anxiety and low level depression. It’s hard for me to come right out and say it, even to my doctor. I hope they’ll pick up on the hints.

    It’s even harder at work because I have a high stress job. It’s been like this for a few years and the chronic stress has left me always feeling anxious and unhealthy. I want to say something but I don’t want it to seem like I just can’t handle the job because of my illness when the fact that I’ve done the job despite it shows I’m tougher than most. But it won’t be seen that way. I don’t want to lose my career ground. It’s a catch 22.

    Good for Mariah. The more awareness the less people who suffer unnecessarily.

  21. Luna says:

    So many news outlets are reporting that she “is bipolar.” Thank you, CB, for saying she has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She is not the disease. Folks need to stop calling people their disease. People aren’t “schizophrenic,” they have schizophrenia. Kudos.