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Mariah Carey is speaking out about a mental health issue that has affected her life for the past 17 years: bipolar II disorder.

The Grammy winner revealed she was diagnosed with the mental disorder in 2001 and told People she’s “lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose [her]” ever since. Now, with her disorder managed through therapy and medication, Carey is speaking out in hopes of breaking down the stigma that surrounds mental health issues.

“It does not have to define you, and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me…I felt it was time to be able to speak about [it],” Carey said.

So what is bipolar disorder? Here’s everything you need to know.

Mariah Carey on stage
Samir Hussein/Getty Images

What is bipolar disorder?
The Mayo Clinic describes bipolar disorder as “a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).” It’s a condition that affects approximately 5.7 million Americans, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

What’s the difference between bipolar I and bipolar II disorder?
Bipolar I disorder is characterized by having “at least one manic episode that may be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes,” the Mayo Clinic tells us. In some cases, bipolar I can cause psychosis, or a break from reality. During periods of mania, those who suffer from bipolar I often act erratically and find it difficult to sleep. This manic behavior is followed by severe depression.

Those with bipolar II, like Carey, have had at least one depressive episode and one hypomanic episode, but have never had a full manic episode, says the Mayo Clinic. While they don’t experience mania, hypomania can lead to unpredictable moods and enhanced creativity. Depression also follows hypomania in someone with bipolar II.

How does bipolar disorder develop?
The cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but multiple studies have determined that both nature and nurture can play a part.

How is it treated?
Bipolar disorder is treated with therapy and medication.

Is it a lifelong battle?
Yes. Individuals with bipolar disorder will have it for the rest of their lives. It isn’t an illness to overcome, but rather manage with the help of talk therapy and medication.

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