Lady Gaga sat down with Oprah on Saturday for a wide-ranging and candid discussion about her experiences with mental health and chronic pain, including having a psychotic break.
During the conversation, which took place as part of Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus Tour in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Lady Gaga described what her psychotic break felt like.
“My whole body started tingling and I started screaming. I was in a hospital. It’s very difficult to describe what it feels like other than that you first start to tingle from head to toe and then you go numb,” Lady Gaga said, according to Harper’s Bazaar. “The brain goes, ‘That’s enough, I don’t want to think about this anymore. I don’t want to feel this anymore.’ Boom. You break from reality as you know it.”
Lady Gaga said what really helped her recover from the episode was medication. Oprah then asked if the “Born This Way” singer was concerned for her future as a public figure if people found out about the psychotic break.
“I was more scared about the psychotic break itself rather than people knowing about it. When your brain flatlines like that, it’s something I would never, ever want to experience again,” Lady Gaga told Oprah. She continued:
At some point, I had to tell people. I can’t live a lie, I’m an authentic person, and here I am, I’m perfectly imperfect, and we all are. We all have our things that we go through. I felt like, ‘Why shouldn’t I share this when I share all of myself with the world all the time?’ And I could maybe help people that have had psychotic breaks.
— Jonathan Borge (@senorborge) January 4, 2020
Colloquially known as a “psychotic break,” this brief episode of psychosis may be labeled by mental health professionals as “acute and transient psychotic disorder,” “brief psychotic disorder” or “brief and limited psychotic symptoms (BLIPS).” Symptoms may include hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, out-of-character behavior, and jumbled thoughts and speech.
A brief psychotic break typically lasts for a month or less and can be the symptom of another mental health condition, like bipolar disorder, or a physical health condition. The cause of these brief episodes isn’t 100% known yet, but they have been connected to overwhelming stress. According to the National Institute of Mental health, about 3% of the population will experience at least one psychotic break in their lifetime.
If you or a loved one may be experiencing a psychotic break, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible, even though the symptoms are usually only short-term. Research suggests those who experience one psychotic break could have a 50% chance of experiencing another episode. For this reason, early treatment is also important to prevent future psychotic episodes. Treatment for psychosis may include medication and therapy, especially if stress or another mental health condition may have contributed to the episode.
Mighty contributor Danei Edelen explained what her psychotic break felt like in the article, “What It Means to Rebuild Your Life After a Psychotic Break“:
My psychologist explained to me that having a psychotic break is like having a psychological house with a cracked foundation. In addition, there’s a pit underneath your house. So, when the foundation breaks, your entire psychological house falls down into the pit and breaks into a thousand pieces. Well, my house fell into that pit, and it fell far, shattering my whole world. As if you are experiencing a fit of vertigo, eyes dilated, attempting to pick up the pieces of this abstract puzzle.
During her chat with Oprah, Lady Gaga also discussed living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of surviving rape and the chronic pain she experiences due to fibromyalgia. The singer revealed she hopes to use her lived experience to support others living with similar health conditions.
“Now, when I see someone in pain I can’t look away. I’m in pain too,” Gaga said. “Now, I’m in problem-solving mode. I’ve got my suit on and my heels and I’m ready to go.”
Fort Lauderdale, thank you for your warmth and fantastic generosity. And @ladygaga: Your willingness to ‘go there’ with your vulnerability opened all our hearts today. #Oprahs2020VisionTour pic.twitter.com/oN77amjNw3
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) January 5, 2020
You can watch the full conversation with Lady Gaga on Oprah’s Facebook page starting Jan. 8.