Mariah Carey Opens Up About Bipolar Disorder

Mariah Carey told People magazine that she had not previously disclosed the diagnosis because “I didn’t want to carry around the stigma of a lifelong disease that would define me and potentially end my career.”

Mariah Carey, the superstar singer who has lived in the public eye for three decades, has acknowledged that, in 2001, she learned that she had bipolar disorder.

Ms. Carey disclosed the diagnosis in an interview with People magazine’s editor in chief, Jess Cagle. A preview of the magazine’s cover story was published online Wednesday. The full interview will be available Friday.

The interview marks one of the first instances in which a celebrity of Ms. Carey’s stature has acknowledged her struggles with mental illness. In the interview, she explained why she had not previously revealed the diagnosis.

“I didn’t want to carry around the stigma of a lifelong disease that would define me and potentially end my career,” she said. “I was so terrified of losing everything.”

Ms. Carey said that she had lived in “denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” and that she had come forward after the burden became too heavy to bear. She is in therapy and taking medication for bipolar II disorder, a disease that can cause sudden and extreme shifts in mood, among other symptoms.

People magazine declined to explain how the interview had come about, saying only that Ms. Carey had trusted Mr. Cagle to tell her story. A publicist for Ms. Carey did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ms. Carey was a teenager in the late 1980s when she was recruited by Tommy Mottola, the president of what was then CBS Records, to become a pop star. Her fame was swift with the backing of the label, and that placed enormous pressure on her from the beginning.

She spent long hours in the studio recording her debut, “Mariah Carey,” and was nominated for four Grammys in 1991. She won two that year, including the award for best new artist. Her third album, 1993’s “Music Box,” was also an enormous commercial success. By 2000, Billboard had crowned her the artist of the decade.

But the money behind Ms. Carey’s rise led to suspicion. Industry observers questioned the singer’s initial unwillingness to tour and asked whether her voice was less impressive than it sounded on record. The scrutiny increased in 1997, when Ms. Carey and Mr. Mottola parted ways, and she began to experiment with her style.

In the summer of 2001, after a drawn-out feud with her label, and the release of a new single, Ms. Carey was hospitalized for exhaustion. Soon after, her film project “Glitter” was released and widely panned by critics.

The latter half of her career has been characterized by inconsistent performances, and a string of high-profile relationships that have been obsessively covered by the tabloids.

She retained her hitmaking abilities (the blockbuster songs “We Belong Together” and “Touch My Body” were released during this period). For many critics, Ms. Carey’s music had become less of a focus than her public persona and live performances. In 2017, she was widely ridiculed for her failed lip-syncing performance on ABC’s “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest” in Times Square.

Ms. Carey’s disclosure of her diagnosis follows admissions of mental health problems by other celebrities. Last year, Chrissy Teigen wrote an essay about her experience with postpartum depression for Glamour magazine and Selena Gomez told Vogue about her struggles with anxiety and depression.

But Ms. Carey started her career during a different era and her interview with Mr. Cagle breaks new ground. She told People that she had decided to speak partly on behalf of others who might be suffering.

“I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone,” she said. “It can be incredibly isolating. It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”

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