In a recent interview, David Letterman helped the world find out more about musician Kanye West’s bipolar disorder diagnosis and how it affects his daily life. West has shared little information about his mental health since he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and admitted to psychiatric care in 2016. His appearance on Letterman’s show provided a more in-depth look at his condition and how he handles it.

When West was first taken into psychiatric care, he was separated from family and loved ones. “They handcuff you, they drug you, they put you on the bed, and they separate you from everyone you know,” West explained. Though he found it to be somewhat cruel, West said, “That’s something that I am so happy that I experienced myself so I can start by changing that moment.”

What Bipolar Feels Like

Bipolar disorder causes people to experience extreme changes in mood, swinging from manic highs to depressive lows. Bipolar episodes create changes in a person’s thinking and behavior that can be dangerous. West’s experiences fit the symptoms of bipolar disorder, a condition that affects around 3% of Americans.

“When you’re in this state, you’re hyper-paranoid about everything… Everyone is now an actor. Everything’s a conspiracy,” West said. “You pretty much don’t trust anyone.”

West also stated that each person with bipolar disorder has different reactions during these episodes. Manic episodes can cause racing thoughts and compulsive actions that affect a person’s behavior.

What does bipolar feel like? While West felt paranoia, others may swing from feelings of productivity to extreme exhaustion and depression. When brain chemistry shifts like this, people can become incredibly irritable and even lash out at others. There is a spectrum of bipolar disorder, and depending on where someone is on the spectrum, the symptoms can vary.

Speaking Out About Bipolar Disorder

West took his time on Letterman’s show to help draw attention to the stigma attached to mental health issues. He compared mental conditions to physical issues, stating, “It is a health issue… It’s like a sprained brain, like having a sprained ankle. And if someone has a sprained ankle, you’re not going to push on him more.”

West uses alternative treatment methods for his condition, but there are many treatment options available for people with bipolar disorder. There are ways to overcome the effects of bipolar disorder and lead a fulfilling, healthy life.

The musician also aims to raise awareness of bipolar disorder and remove people’s misconceptions about it and other mental health conditions. “It’s a health issue that has a strong stigma on it, and people are allowed to say anything about it and discriminate in any way,” West stated. By drawing attention to the stigma of bipolar disorder and other mental issues, West hopes people will see mental health conditions for what they are: health issues.

If you or a loved one is living with bipolar disorder and a co-occurring substance use disorder, The Recovery Village is here to help. Contact us today to find a treatment plan that can work well for you.

a man wearing a blue and white striped shirt.
By – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more

Stone, Natalie. “David Letterman Says Kanye West and Kim […]s ‘Fascinating.’” People, May 30, 2019. Accessed June 25, 2019.

National Institute of Mental Health. “Bipolar Disorder.” November 2017. Accessed July 2, 2019.

Melas, Chloe. “Kanye West opens up about managing his m[…]Letterman interview.” CNN, May 28, 2019. Accessed June 25, 2019.

CBS. “Kanye West opens up about his struggle w[…]th bipolar disorder.” May 30, 2019. Accessed June 25, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.