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Famous and Depressed
They’re talented, attractive, wealthy, and widely acclaimed. But neither fame nor fortune immunizes celebrities against the ravages of depression and mood disorders. Today, when a celebrity’s missteps can “break the Internet,” says Vasilis K. Pozios, MD, a forensic psychiatrist and entertainment industry consultant in private practice in Detroit, the resulting public scrutiny can provoke feelings of guilt, shame, and insecurity.
What’s more, celebrities often experience key risk factors for depression, including substance abuse, sleep disruption, unemployment, and highly variable work schedules, says Scott A. Langenecker, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of the cognitive neuroscience center at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
Here are some celebrities who've experienced depression and come out on the other side.
Lady Gaga: ‘I Still Suffer With It Every Single Day’
With her chameleon looks, “art-pop meets haute couture” wardrobe, genre-busting voice, and her new role in American Horror Story, Lady Gaga seems the very definition of courage and power. But that image belies a lifelong struggle with depression, she recently revealed to Billboard. “I’ve suffered through depression and anxiety my entire life,” she said. “I just want these kids to know that ... this modern thing, where everyone is feeling shallow and less connected? That’s not human,” she told the magazine.
Feeling less connected takes a toll, says Dr. Pozios, even for people who seem to be connected because they’re active online. “The scrutiny that young people face on social media can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts,” he says.
Because of Gaga’s own struggles with depression and feelings of isolation, her mission is to help young people facing similar emotional struggles. Her Born This Way Foundation aims to empower youth and inspire bravery, and provides resources to help young people affected by bullying, abuse, and depression.
The Rock: Sharing a Message of Hope
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, 43, recently shared a hopeful message to inspire others who may be dealing with depression.
"I found that, with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you're not alone," Johnson said during an episode of Oprah’s Master Class on the OWN network. "You're not the first to go through it; you're not going to be the last to go through it … I wish I had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and [say], 'Hey, it's gonna be okay. It'll be okay.' So I wish I knew that."
Johnson, the son of retired Canadian professional wrestler Rocky Johnson, experienced depression during his early twenties when his football career stalled. After graduating from the University of Miami, where he played as a backup defensive tackle for the Hurricanes, Johnson was passed over by the NFL. He then played for a Canadian football team, but was cut after two months. Johnson called this time of his life — during which he also lived in his parents’ basement — "a real low point."
He left his football dreams behind and instead focused on a new career: wrestling. And the rest is history. Today, The Rock has a laundry list of accomplishments under his belt, including New York Times bestselling author, family man, and action star in the popular movie franchise The Fast and the Furious. Still, he hopes that people with depression don’t give up hope during dark times.
"Hold on to that fundamental quality of faith," he said on Oprah's Master Class. "Have faith that on the other side of your pain is something good."
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