Actress Debi Mazar speaks out about her family's ordeal with bipolar depression
(ARA) - An estimated 8 million American adults may be affected by bipolar disorder, a complex mental illness in which people experience extreme mood swings from highs (bipolar mania) to lows (bipolar depression). Episodes of bipolar depression can include symptoms of prolonged periods of sadness, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, and feelings of worthlessness. These symptoms can interfere with a person's ability to handle everyday tasks, such as those related to work or family life. Most people with bipolar disorder when ill or when symptomatic experience more depressive moods (lows) than elevated moods (highs).
Actress Debi Mazar, of HBO's "Entourage" who was seen recently on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," is opening up for the first time about a close family member's battle with bipolar depression. About 10 years ago, Mazar's family began to notice alarming changes in her relative's behavior. He saw a doctor and was incorrectly diagnosed twice with anxiety disorder and later with depression. Mazar's family quickly learned that mental illnesses can also be very hard not only on the patient but also on family members, who may find themselves in the role of caretaker.
"It was very frustrating for my family because we didn't know what to do to help," recalled Mazar. "The symptoms took a huge toll on him and it was very difficult for us."
Eventually, Mazar's relative was accurately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. His doctor helped him find the best combination of medication and talk therapy to manage his bipolar depression, and today he has a successful job, works out regularly, and has re-engaged with family and friends.
"I'm speaking out about what my family went through because I want to help change public perception of bipolar depression, reduce stigma, and show other families that bipolar depression can be managed successfully," said Mazar.
Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist who works with people who have bipolar depression, says it's common for chronic diseases like this one to take a toll on family members. She recommends these general tips from the National Family Caregivers Association:
* Educate yourself about your loved one's condition and how to communicate effectively with doctors.
* Seek support from other caregivers who are facing the same issues.
* Accept friends' and neighbors' offers to help and suggest specific things that they can do.
"Family and friends can play a very important role in helping a person with bipolar depression manage his or her disease," said Dr. Taylor. "I hope that Debi's courage in sharing her story will inspire other families to talk to a doctor and get the help and support they need."
Both Mazar and Dr. Taylor have participated in the "SPEAK and Be Heard . . . Living With Bipolar Depression" campaign, which was developed to encourage people with bipolar depression and their caregivers who are successfully managing their condition to become role models and inspire others by sharing their own stories. This campaign, sponsored by AstraZeneca as part of its ongoing efforts to raise awareness of mental illness, is also designed to show the importance of seeking an accurate diagnosis and developing an appropriate treatment plan with a health care provider in an effort to successfully manage bipolar depression.
To learn more about Debi's story-and the stories of other caregivers and people living with bipolar disorder - visit www.FacingBipolar.com.