6 Things You Can Learn from Singer Bebe Rexha’s Bipolar Diagnosis
Grammy Award-nominated singer and songwriter Bebe Rexha is joining a growing list of celebrities who are opening up about their mental health issues. In an April 15, 2019 tweet, the “I’m a Mess” singer talked about the struggles she was facing:
“For the longest time I didn’t understand why I felt so sick. Why I felt lows that made me not want to leave my house or be around people and why I felt highs that wouldn’t let me sleep, wouldn’t let me stop working or creating music. Now I know why.”
She followed up with another revealing tweet:
“I’m bipolar and I’m not ashamed anymore. That is all. (Crying my eyes out.)”
Rexha is one of an estimated 2.8% of adults in the U.S. (about 5.7 million people) who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The condition is associated with significant and severe changes in moods, energy levels, and activity levels, resulting in depressive episodes and manic episodes that shift in a cyclical pattern. It can have devastating consequences on all areas of a person’s life when left untreated. And researchers estimate that 25% to 60% of people with bipolar disease will attempt suicide at least once in their lives.
In a 2020 interview in Self magazine, Rexha spoke in-depth about her diagnosis and what it’s meant for her. Here are 6 important takeaways from her experience.
1. Breaking the stigma of mental illness can be liberating.
Rexha said she wrestled with the idea of seeking help and going public, but she was worried about how it might affect her career and fan base. Finally, she decided she wasn’t going to let the stigma hold her back anymore. That 2019 tweet garnered over 32,000 likes and an outpouring of support from her fans. Rexha said she no longer wanted to be “imprisoned by mental illness.”
She exemplifies that it is time to discard the outdated, stigmatizing mental health paradigm that taints people with disparaging labels, preventing them from getting the help they need. It’s time to replace that with a modern brain-based, whole-person program rooted in neuroscience and hope. No one is shamed for cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. Likewise, no one should be shamed for depression, panic attacks, or bipolar disorder.
2. Don’t listen when people tell you to just “snap out of it.”
Like so many people who are struggling with symptoms of mental health problems, Rexha had people around her who thought her issues were some kind of character flaw. Her parents told her, “Just get over it. It’s all in your head. Take a walk.’” But bipolar disorder is not your fault. It’s an illness, and you can’t simply will it away. Seeking treatment is key, and research in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that early intervention can be especially beneficial. Early phases of the condition may be more responsive to treatment and may require less intense solutions.
3. Bipolar medication shouldn’t “flatten” your personality.
Many people with bipolar disorder are concerned that taking medication will rob them of their artistic creativity or make them feel like a zombie. Rexha worried about this too but realized her fears were unfounded. “I’m still the same person in the studio,” she told the magazine. In some ways, she actually feels even more insightful as well as feeling more balanced.
In some cases, if medication does make you feel numb, it may be a sign that the dosage needs to be adjusted or you may need to try a different medication. Be sure to let your mental healthcare provider know how you’re feeling.
4. Don’t stop taking medication when you feel better.
Bipolar disorder is usually very responsive to treatment. However, when people with this condition start feeling better, they often believe they no longer need treatment, so they stop taking their medication, which can lead to a return of symptoms. Studies have found that 20% to 70% of people with bipolar disorder have poor compliance with treatment protocols. Rexha said the key to taking medication is to “stay on top of it, and don’t miss doses, and speak to your therapist.”
5. Self-care is a critical component of ongoing therapy.
Medication should never be the first or only thing you do to treat a mental health problem, such as bipolar disorder. Rexha says she uses daily affirmations, high-intensity interval training, cooking, and other lifestyle strategies to enhance her moods or to relax. Other self-care strategies that can be helpful include psychotherapy, brain healthy eating, and nutritional supplements.
6. Knowing the underlying cause of symptoms can be empowering.
When Rexha finally learned that her depressive symptoms and manic episodes were actually bipolar disorder, she felt validated. This reaction to getting a diagnosis is commonly seen in individuals who suffer from debilitating symptoms. The sense of understanding and self-acceptance is even greater in people with psychiatric issues who undergo brain SPECT imaging, a test that measures blood flow and activity in the brain. When people see areas of their brain that have either too much activity or too little activity, which are both associated with mental health issues, it helps them see their problems as medical not moral. This often erases the belief that there’s nothing they can do and motivates them to take action to change their brain and change their life.
At Amen Clinics, we use brain SPECT imaging as part of an overall evaluation to identify underlying brain health issues associated with many psychiatric disorders. It also helps our physicians make more accurate diagnoses and create more targeted and effective treatment plans.
To find out how we can help you or a loved one, call to speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.