We all know the story: celebrity becomes a huge star and everyone loves them, then comes a pattern of irresponsible spending, doing drugs, and breaking the law. For weeks people are claiming to have detail from an inside source, or speculating on what disorder they may have. “Celebrity Breakdown” is one of the most popular headlines. It can look like celebrities have way more mental health issues than regular people, but do they actually have more mental health issues than regular people? Why do celebrities have breakdowns, and why do we care? Also, what effects can all these mental health issues and the very public nature of them have on society in general? For the purposes of this essay I will use a definition of “breakdown” in an article from The Mayo Clinic: “a person is no longer able to function normally… unusual or dysfunctional behaviors may be considered signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown.”(Hall-Flavin).
Do celebrities have breakdowns more than their non-famous counterparts? If so, why? One reason celebrities may have breakdowns is that they have a hard time dealing with the criticism of their art. Lots of celebrities are actors, singers and other musicians, writers, dancers, filmmakers etc. who are very passionate about their particular artistic expression.
Jennifer Kunst said, in an article for Psychology Today: “it is common for creative individuals to develop a perfectionistic relationship with their craft, feeling harshly critical of themselves when they fall short or even when they are succeeding. They can become very reliant on outside feedback to affirm their worth … The more fame and acclaim one achieves, the more there is to lose and the greater the drive to have even more. Consequently, a bad review, a cancelled show, poor sales, financial troubles, or the feeling that one’s career is fading with time or age can lead to tremendous anxiety.”(Kunst) Another reason a celebrity might have a mental health disorder is they have access to drugs and alcohol and the money to buy any drugs they could want. Many of them have people around them offering them drugs in order to become friends with the famous person. So, drug and alcohol use among the rich and famous is common. Career and social pressures can often cause them to self medicate more and more, which can make them become addicted.
Celebrities are also expected to live cooler, more exciting life than regular people which usually includes doing drugs and drinking. Celebrities also may have a breakdown because of the stress of keeping up appearances. Having everything they do or say constantly seen, they’re bound to mess up at some point, and the moment they do everyone is there to criticize them. Entertainment media is constantly chasing the best stories and hot gossip. The paparazzi are constantly stalking celebrities so that they never get a private moment. Virtually everything they do is documented, either on their own social media accounts, or by the paparazzi. This constant scrutiny of everything they do can cause an unmanageable amount of stress on a person which, when not dealt with properly, can build up and cause a huge meltdown. So, famous people can have mental health episodes due to criticism of their art, drug and alcohol use, and stress from being in the spotlight all the time “Celebrity Breakdown,” whenever we see a headline with those two words we can’t help but click, but why do we care so much? Why do we love to see people at their worst? We see celebrities as these people who are just floating above it all in a separate world than the rest of us, but when they fall we see that they are human too.
We realize that even celebrities go through hard times. Lisa Capretto said in an article explaining why we love celebrity breakdowns so much “there is a universal human connection we experience when we see celebrities hit rock bottom. ‘When a celebrity falls, we take some sort of comfort in it because it proves… everyone suffers in life,’ she says.
‘When they fall, it’s like, ‘See? My life is important too.'” (Capretto)They are just like us. We may also see a celebrity come back from a huge breakdown and think “if they get past this awful thing I can get through my troubles too”. A celebrity comeback can give us hope for our own life. Another reason we are interested in celebrities is people love to feel like they are better than someone else, so they want to be able to say that they’re better than a celebrity that everyone loves. Seeing a celebrity during the bad parts of their life can make the bad parts of our lives seem better in comparison.
One of the most obvious reasons why we love celebrity breakdowns is we live for the drama. We don’t actually care about the celebrities personally, we just want to know what the latest gossip is. Another reason that it draws us in is that it can be a much needed break from the depressing news of the day. With so many bad things happening in the world, we need a break. Instead of reading another depressing article on climate change we read about the Kardashians. It may not be making us smarter, but we know it won’t make us sad. And let’s face it, it’s just fun to look at these stories.
What effect does all this have on us celebrity watchers individually and as a society? When a celebrity openly admits that they have a mental illness, we often doubt them. We say they are just faking it for the publicity On the other hand, we may put them on a pedestal for having a mental disorder and bravely living with it. This can have many effects on today’s culture and regular people suffering from mental health issues. A celebrity saying they have a mental disorder can often sound fake, or over-exaggerated and can make people doubt the reality of mental disorders. It may be because we see celebrities as having this perfect life, so how could there be anything wrong with them. They have security guards so how could they have anxiety? They have a huge house and hundreds of celebrity friends, so how could they be depressed? Another one of the effects is that celebrities coming out as someone with a mental illness can, in a way, romanticize the idea of having a mental illness. When so many celebrities are coming out and saying they have mental illness, fans may feel left out.
They may feel like this celebrity that I love has a mental illness so maybe I do. This can make people doubt people who actually have mental illnesses and say they’re just making it up for attention. Celebrities saying they have mental illness can raise awareness, help people with mental health issues know it can get better, and end the stigma against mental health. In an article for Psych Central Dr. W. Scott West states: “In recent years, many of the well known, high profile athletes, politicians, actors and actresses have decided to go public with their own struggles with depression and related mental illnesses… They have undeniably helped create more awareness and acceptance of mental health conditions”(Scott West) Celebrities telling the truth about their struggles with mental illness can affect society’s views on mental illness.
The issues with celebrity breakdowns are complicated. Celebrities are more likely to have a breakdown in their life than a regular person because they are more likely to become addicted to drugs, they can have a perfectionist view on their art, and they can have stress because their life is constantly watched. We care about celebrity breakdowns because they can make us feel better about ourselves, and it gives us an escape from the stress of depressing news. When a celebrity says they have a mental health issue they can make it seem like they are just doing it for the attention, but it can also raise awareness about the effects of mental illnesses. Mental health troubles are very real and more common than many people think. People think celebrities can’t have mental illnesses because they are successful.
Celebrities’ mental illnesses are just as real as anyone else’s, and they deserve respect, and compassion during these hard times.