There may be evidence that Kate Spade was bipolar. If we look at the facts surrounding bipolar disorder, Kate may have fit some of the criteria. But because she was only five years into her mental health journey, and it takes roughly 10.5 years to diagnose bipolar, it is difficult to tell.

Bipolar allegations from older sister

Her older sister, Reta Brosnahan Saffo, said she was manic depressive. She said, “She was always a very excitable little girl and I felt all the stress/pressure of her brand (KS) may have flipped the switch where she eventually became full-on manic depressive.”

The evidence for this claim seems to be murky. Had there been other family members in Kate Spade’s family who have been bipolar? The cause of bipolar disorder can be tied 60-80% in genetic factors.

She has as much as a tenfold increase in risk developing the disorder if she has relatives who have the disorder.

However, even without a clear genetic factor, changes in health habits or hormonal problems can be enough to trigger an episode, manic or depressive. Stress can also be a contributing factor.

Unfortunately, Kate was trying to self-medicate with alcohol, according to her older sister, though her husband denies that fact. The possible alcohol abuse may induce a more severe depressive phase.

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Outstanding business successes tied to hypomania?

One of the states someone with bipolar can have is hypomania. Laurence McKinney, is a business consultant, Harvard graduate, started pharmaceutical companies, played in rock bands, and started a website for hypomanics (which is no longer in existence).

According to the NYTimes, “Psychiatrists have known for more than a century that bipolar disorder, unlike any other mental illness, is often associated with some financial and professional accomplishment.” There is also the other side of gambling sprees or shopping sprees as well.

Was Kate Spade in the middle of hypomania with her business success? She became the accessories editor in five years at Mademoiselle magazine. She was incredibly successful in founding Kate Spade New York.

With my own experience, I found success during hypomania, but not mania. I was able to produce reports much faster than my usual pace at my engineering job in Alaska when I was hypomanic. However, when I was full on manic, I started a business idea which didn’t come to fruition.

Mental illness gets worse with time.

She and her husband, Andy Spade, were living separately at the time of her suicide. Was it because of her worsening symptoms? When left untreated, bipolar usually worsens with time.

People with bipolar disorder die on average ten to 20 years sooner than the general population. Could Kate Spade just fit into the statistics around bipolar disorder? Spade died when she was 55 years old, much sooner than the average life expectancy for women in the United States at 81 years old in 2017.

However, if she had depression, her life span would have been only shortened by approximately seven years, based on a Canadian study in 2017.

Her suicide fit into the fact that she was one of the 46 percent of the population with previously known mental health issues who commit suicide.  Within New York where she committed suicide, the suicide rate rose by 26% between 2000 and 2014.

What was she really?

According to a statement from Andy Spade, Kate was getting treatment for depression and anxiety for the past five years.

It is possible that she still may have bipolar disorder. It takes an average of 10.5 years to come to a correct diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

For me, it took 14 years to come to the right diagnosis after my first hypomanic episode when I was 15, away at summer science camp. My first diagnoses were depression and anxiety. Even after I found a trauma therapist in Alaska, I was still misdiagnosed until my second full manic episode.  That was when I stayed up too late packing for the move to Colorado; and created a course over 3 days to stop self-sabotage.

My therapist, with 30 years of experience, couldn’t believe she missed my bipolar 1 diagnosis for one year. But it proves that symptoms are hard to diagnose if they are not present. I was incredibly depressed, and it took Alaska’s 19.5 hours of summer daylight to take my hypomania to full on mania.

So could Kate Spade have been bipolar? We’ll never know.

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