Rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh’s admission that he suffered from bipolar disorder has focused some much-needed attention on the mental health issue.
In an in-depth interview with The Times of India on March 15, which was also his birthday, Honey finally addressed the speculation about his nearly two-year absence from Bollywood and the music scene.
While B-town gossip had speculated that Honey went underground because of substance dependence issues, the rapper said, “I know there were rumours that I was in rehab, but I was in my Noida house throughout. Truth is, I was suffering from bipolar disorder. It went on for 18 months, during which I changed four doctors, the medication wasn’t working and crazy things were happening.”
Just what is bipolar disorder? In short, it is a condition in which an individual goes through extreme mood swings. He/she can experience extreme elation at one point of time and be severely depressed at others.
The National Institute of Mental Health defines bipolar disorder as, “a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives”. It is also termed as “manic-depressive illness”.
In his interview, Honey talked about how the disorder left him debilitated in a way — barely able to interact with four-five people when he had previously performed before crowd numbering in the thousands as a matter of course.
“Forget leaving the house, I couldn’t even leave my room. At one point, I thought I would live in this darkness forever. I had cut myself off from everyone. I didn’t come out of my room, forget stepping out of the house. I had a beard and I didn't get a haircut for months. For someone who has performed in front of a crowd of 20,000, I was scared of facing 4-5 people. That’s what bipolar disorder does to you,” Honey said.
Indeed, the NIMH lists in the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, “extreme changes in energy, activity, sleep, and behaviour go along with the changes in mood”. It goes on to explain that “people with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called ‘mood episodes’. Each mood episode represents a drastic change from a person’s usual mood and behaviour. An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression. This is called a mixed state. People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode.”
It is believed that signs of bipolar disorder may set in during the late teens or early adulthood and at least half of all diagnosed cases are seen in individuals who are aged 25 years or less. Medical practitioners diagnose bipolar disorder based on the guidelines from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, after conducting a physical exam, interview and lab tests. After this, the doctor decides on a course of treatment that involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy and other supplementary therapies as well.
Honey Singh isn’t the first celebrity to share his bipolar disorder diagnosis with fans. Just days before his admission, TV actress Shama Sikander had spoken out about her battle with the condition. In the West, actors like Catherine Zeta Jones, Mel Gibson and Marilyn Monroe as well as the late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain have also suffered from bipolar disorder.
Celebrities’ openness towards discussing mental health problems has reduced the stigma surrounding the subject somewhat. Last year, Deepika Padukone spoke out about her struggle with anxiety and depression.