Feeling Down in Beverly Hills: Celebrities and Depression
They are often considered on top of the world, making millions of dollars on movie locations, concert stages and the sets of television sitcoms and drama series. But like millions of Americans, celebrities also suffer from depression, one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States.Depression is a serious mood disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, or NIMH. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with the disease, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.
A number of celebrities have suffered from depression over the years, including the author J.K. Rowling, actresses Kerry Washington, Brooke Shields, Winona Ryder, Ashley Judd and Kirsten Dunst, actor Wayne Brady, Russell Brand, Jim Carrey, and Jon Hamm, and singers Lady Gaga, Sheryl Crow, and Demi Lovato.
Medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) are very effective for most people with depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. At the same time, many people with depression also benefit from seeing a psychologist or other mental health professional. Celebrities who have experienced depression, and spoken openly about it, have also sought treatment in a variety of ways.
One of the first in Hollywood to speak honestly about depression was Brooke Shields, who wrote frankly about her battle with postpartum depression in her 2005 book, “Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression.”
In an interview with WebMD, actress/model/icon Shields admitted that after her daughter, Rowan’s, birth, she found herself crying more than Rowan did, and she was plagued by feelings of self-doubt and self-harm.
She claimed that she had no mother’s intuition at all. While friends and family quickly dismissed her sadness and disinterest as a case of the “baby blues,” that would disappear as soon as she got some rest, Shields said that she knew it was something much more than that. To overcome the disease after the birth of her first child in the spring of 2003, Shields turned to medication, and penned an opinion piece in the New York Times, defending her decision to do so.
Ashley Judd also used the pages of her 2011 memoir, All That Is Bitter & Sweet, to reveal that she turned to a rehabilitation clinic for help in 2006, spending 42 days there while undergoing a battle with depression.
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Jon Hamm was just 20-years-old and decades away from his Mad Men success when the depression hit, just after the death of his father. A college student at the time, he told the UK magazine The Observer in 2010 that he relied on the structure of school and work to help him cope, but also turned to therapy and antidepressants as well.
“You can change your brain chemistry enough to think: ‘I want to get up in the morning; I don’t want to sleep until four in the afternoon,” said Hamm.
Winona Ryder began spiraling into depression at age 19, after her high-profile relationship with actor Johnny Depp ended. The actress began abusing alcohol and experiencing anxiety attacks, according to an interview she conducted with the San Francisco Chronicle in Jan. 2000.
Ryder sought treatment, briefly, in a mental institution herself, after falling asleep with a lit cigarette. She continued with a private therapist.
Actress Kirsten Dunst also sought treatment for depression, an experience she recounted for British Elle in 2011.
Dunst told the magazine that she traveled to the Cirque Lodge rehab facility in 2008 to deal with mental issues she was having.
“I have experienced depression,” she said. “Many people have. Mine was caused by a few things. I felt a lot of stress from all these different areas …”
Demi Lovato, in an interview with Refinery 29, said that she “didn’t know much about bipolar [disease]” when she was unexpectedly diagnosed with the disorder in 2011 while in rehab for anorexia, bulimia, and cutting.
“I had heard people joking about bipolar,” she said, “as if it’s that one minute you’re sad, one minute you’re happy. I was worried about the diagnosis at first; I didn’t want anyone to think badly of me.”
Quickly, however, Lovato was grateful she had a name for the waves of depression and mood elevation she had experienced since age 10.
Is there evidence that the super rich, including celebrities, are more prone to depression? Some studies say yes.
According to a 2014 article in Business Insider, studies show that “the wealthy… are often not happier once they’re rich.” Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon, was a classic example. After returning home from the historic Apollo 11 mission, he became an alcoholic, developed severe depression, and went through three divorces.
A study published in the December 2014 issue of Journal of Health and Social Behavior by the Pennsylvania State University and Iowa State University titled Gender, Job Authority, and Depression reports that power and authority may be linked to depression. Depression, even the most severe cases, can be treated. The earlier that treatment can begin, the more effective it is.