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Is Catherine Zeta-Jones doing the right thing with ‘maintenance’ treatment for bipolar?

Catherine Zeta-Jones readmitted herself to a hospital to get help for bipolar disorder.

ANDREW KELLY/REUTERS

There's no telling whether Catherine Zeta-Jones is doing fine.

The actress readmitted herself to a hospital Monday to get help for bipolar disorder, People reports. Zeta-Jones is participating in a 30-day program as a form of "maintenance" treatment, a source told TMZ.

Her rep, Cece Yorke, confirmed the news. "Catherine has proactively checked into a health-care facility," she told People, adding that Zeta-Jones "is committed to periodic care in order to manage her health."

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The "take charge" language puts a positive spin on things, but the reality of bipolar disorder is more grim. Bipolar is a serious medical condition that interferes with the brain's mood-regulating system, causing episodes of hypomania and depression. Like many mental illnesses, it is incurable.

Zeta-Jones went public about having bipolar disorder two years ago, when her inpatient treatment at a mental-health facility lasted just five days. Commenting to InStyle magazine in 2012, she said, "I'm not the kind of person who likes to shout out my personal issues from the rooftops but with my bipolar becoming public, I hope fellow sufferers will know it is completely controllable."

Although she called it "completely controllable," it is a disorder associated with frequent relapses.

A source quoted in People said, "there was no big problem" before Zeta-Jones's latest hospital stay. The actress planned to return to treatment so doctors could check her medication, the source said. "This was just a good time to do it. She is in between projects."

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, an effective maintenance plan for bipolar disorder includes medication and psychotherapy over the long term. "It is best controlled when treatment is continuous, rather than on and off," notes the NIMH.

As a celebrity with bipolar, Zeta-Jones may be doing a disservice by allowing her aides to describe treatment as something one schedules in between projects, as if checking into a spa.

But at least her experience lets the world know that bipolar disorder never really goes away.

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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