Zeta May Have Lived with Bipolar Disorder since Teens; DISCLOSURE BY ACTRESS OF HER DIAGNOSIS 'COULD HELP OTHERS'

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CATHERINE ZETA-JONES may have been suffering from bipolar disorder since her late teens, experts suggested yesterday.

But the condition is frequently misdiagnosed and can be mistaken for simple depression, a team at Cardiff University said.

As reported in yesterday's Western Mail, the 41-year-old Oscar-winning actress has announced she was treated for bipolar II disorder following a stressful year.

Husband Michael Douglas has recently undergone six months of treatment for throat cancer.

Zeta-Jones' publicist said: "After dealing with the stress of the past year, Catherine made the decision to check in to 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."

Dr Daniel Smith, a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer in psychiatry at Cardiff Uni-versity, said: "I would be surprised if this just had a 12-month history - this probably goes way back.

"She may have been living with this for a while but it's quite common for it to be missed because patients tend to only go to their doctors with depression.

"Research has highlighted that most people with bipolar II have a delay of 10 years between first having symptoms and getting the right diagnosis. During that time many are diagnosed with depression. "The study we've just done in South Wales suggests one in 10 people with depression looked after by their GP probably have bipolar.

"And if these patients are on the wrong form of treatment this misdiagnosis can have big implications."

Speculation that she may have been living with the condition for decades was echoed by Dr Vince Gradillas, psychiatric consultant at the Priory Hospital in Roehampton. He said that the individual's family was key in picking up signs of the illness early on but that sufferers of the condition can live "entirely normally" between episodes.

He added the condition generally affects people in their early 20s and episodes can be triggered by stress.

Bipolar II disorder differs from the classic bipolar disorder - sufferers tend to experience episodes of depression but infrequent and brief periods of mania.

It is thought one in 100 people have bipolar disorder but the Cardiff University research suggests the true figure is at least three in every 100 people.

Dr Smith, part of Cardiff University's world-leading research team into bipolar disorder, said: "It's likely that throughout her lifetime Zeta-Jones has had problems with recurrent depression.

"The mania may have been missed as, in her line of work, it's probably quite common for people to behave in an over-thetop, energetic way.

"She's probably functioned very well with this for many years, after all she has won an Oscar and other awards.

"The key is effective treatment for the depression as this is the element of the disorder that gets in the way of daily life."

Treatment for bipolar disorder is with mood stabilisers, such as lithium - antidepressants are not effective and can make bipolar symptoms worse. …