Van Damme’s substance abuse problem has been linked with his bipolar disorder. People with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, they are highly susceptible to addiction, and Van Damme’s condition went undiagnosed for years. Before he was diagnosed, he would turn to training for help. “When I didn’t train for a couple of days, I felt so low and nothing could make me happy.” Except for drugs, unfortunately.
Van Damme was finally diagnosed with Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder in 1998, and he began to take sodium balproate—a mood stabilizing drug—to help him with his condition. He’s been very open about his disorder in interviews, and was expressive while playing himself in JCVD, where he exposed himself as a broken man.
Like others with this condition, he was even suicidal at one point, but was able to get the help he needed. As he put it, “I didn’t have any reasons to live … I was not excited about anything. Then you have to find back your self-esteem. And then, slowly, every piece of yourself becomes precious again … It’s not the drugs, it’s a problem with yourself, which you have to cure.” After he finally kicked his cocaine habit (cold turkey, at that), he started to move forward. This also helped him reconcile with his third wife (the one he remarried) and he’s been dealing with his condition positively ever since.