Successful people may seem like they just have it all, but they have problems just like anyone else. When it comes to mental illness, extremely wealthy and famous people are not immune to statistics; one in four Americans suffer from a mental illness. From depression to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, actors, artists, businessmen, and politicians can all suffer from these sometimes debilitating diseases. However, when people in the spotlight can use their success to shed light on the reality of living with mental illness, they can help to lessen the stigma associated with such disorders.
In recent years, the conversations we’re having about mental illness have changed drastically. Celebrities are coming out with their own personal struggles in order to help others who may be silent with their own mental illness. We are also learning about the many facets of mental illnesses and how no two cases can look the same. With mental illness can come gifts, challenges, and tremendous highs and lows, that those without mental illness may never experience. It is not surprising that many wildly successful people have mental illnesses, since mental illness does not affect IQ and often helps individuals to become better equipped at jumping hurdles than those without. As more high-profile, successful individuals come forward with their mental illness experiences, we can continue to lessen the stigma and increase the understanding of mental illness everywhere.
Let’s take a look at some of the successful people who have been open about their struggle and helped others:
15. Demi Lovato – Bipolar Disorder
Demi Lovato has perhaps been one of the youngest stars to be open about her own very real struggle with mental illness. Demi Lovato has not only acknowledged her struggle, but also been open about her personal journey. Struggling with addiction, anxiety, and eating disorder recovery, Lovato says she checked into a treatment program to help get her back on the right track. However, it wasn’t until she was in rehab that she learned she was treating symptoms of a different mental illness altogether: Bipolar disorder. Since being properly diagnosed, Lovato has been openly encouraging other young people with mental illness, or symptoms thereof, to seek proper care and treatment.
14. Catherine Zeta-Jones – Bipolar II Disorder
Unlike Demi Lovato, Catherine Zeta-Jones has been a bit more reserved when it comes to sharing her own personal journey with bipolar disorder. However, she did open up about having the mental illness after years of being in Hollywood’s limelight. In 2011, as half of Hollywood’s most well-documented power couples of that time, Zeta-Jones got treatment for Bipolar II Disorder. She has since been honest about the nature of both her mental illness and her seeking treatment, acknowledging she wants to be honest, but does not want to become the ‘face’ of the disease. Despite her reluctance, it is admirable that she came forward with her personal struggle as one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood at the time.
13. Carrie Fisher – Bipolar Disorder, Depression
While Carrie Fisher is no longer alive, she will always be remembered for not only her immense talent and comedic timing, but also for being a pioneer in talking about mental illness. Through her memoirs, books, interviews, and public appearances, Carrie Fisher sought to pull back the curtain on bipolar disorder and depression. She aimed to help people understand the highs and lows that often accompany mental illness by sharing her own, deeply personal experiences. Her candor and wit made the books widely praised and easy-to-read, ultimately exposing millions of fans to the many unknown truths about living with mental illness. It’s difficult to beat Star Wars in anyone’s legacy, but Fisher successfully outdid even that saga with her own personal reflections and work later on in life.
12. Stephen King – Alcoholism
The known master of horror, Stephen King is no stranger to dark subject matter. However, in 2013, the author began to reveal some of his own personal demons while promoting his latest written work. Stephen King admitted that much of a character’s afflictions in his book Doctor Sleep.The books aims to detail some of the unspoken truths about true alcoholism, including just how complicated and twisted recovery can become. King had a lot of personal experience to draw on, as he has been sober for decades thanks to a staged family intervention. He credits the AA program, the intervention, and some particularly scary personal experiences as helpful in his recovery and encourages other alcoholics to seek treatment, even after they hit rock bottom. His rock bottom? Drinking beer at his own son’s little league game before being reprimanded by his son’s coach.
11. Jean-Claude Van Damme – Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder
Known for being a strong, successful fighter and actor, many people were surprised when Van Damme came forward with his mental illness. After starring in multiple action movies and becoming somewhat of a living superhero, the former Belgian kickboxer opened up about his deepest challenge. No, it wasn’t nailing his stunts or knocking down his next bigger opponent, it was mental illness. He was divorced four times, addicted to cocaine, and felt life was out of control. After being diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder, Van Damme sought accurate treatment and has since been outspoken about doing so, citing how much proper medication helped him.
10. Adam Levine – ADHD
Known as the frontman for the wildly successful pop/rock group Maroon 5, Adam Levine has since had individual success. From featuring his vocal talents on hit singles to being one of the most beloved judges on NBC’s The Voice, Levine is one of the most recognizable faces (and voices!) currently in the music industry. Levine seems to feel that with great recognition comes great responsibility and is known to support many charities and social causes, including lessening the stigma of mental illness. Revealing that he has endured a lifelong struggle with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), he hopes to help anyone else who may be facing similar challenges.
9. Howie Mandel – OCD
Howie Mandel has been in the public eye for decades. From his comedy to hosting America’s Got Talent and filling in Kelly Ripa’s cohost chair often, he is a beloved Hollywood mainstay. Known for his bald head and quick wit, Mandel has shifted his persona by being honest with his very challenging experience with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). More than 2 million people suffer from OCD and Mandel is hopeful that being honest about his own experience will encourage those suffering to get help. He has said that Americans need to start thinking about mental health like oral health: Seeking proactive professional mental illness treatment should be just like visiting the dentist regularly.
8. Drew Barrymore – Addiction, Depression
It’s no secret that some of America’s most beloved child stars often have highly publicized struggles with mental health later in life. Perhaps one of the most famous examples is Drew Barrymore, who has since cleaned up not only her image, but also her struggles by getting proper mental illness treatment. When she was just a child, Barrymore began drinking and using drugs regularly. Eventually experiencing the disease of addiction, Barrymore found herself suffering with depression and even attempted to kill herself. Now, Barrymore lives a cleaner lifestyle and is open about her previous struggles in an attempt to help others.
7. Brooke Shields – Postpartum Depression
Not unlike Drew Barrymore, Brooke Shields grew up in the limelight. From her very adult roles as a child actress, to her famous Calvin Klein ads, Shields was no stranger to controversy. Shields has seen both the bright and dark sides to being famous and successful. While she has always been honest and open about her difficulties growing up, she revealed an even deeper struggle when she came forward as suffering from Postpartum Depression. Her bravery in acknowledging her mental illness has clearly helped others, as many more women have come forward to seek help for the same illness.
6. Chrissy Teigen – Postpartum Depression
Perhaps the most recent star to talk about dealing with postpartum depression is Chrissy Teigen, who gave birth to her first child with John Legend not long ago. Teigen said that at time, the mental illness was so difficult to deal with, she could not leave the house or even go upstairs to sleep. Instead, she spent days sleeping on the couch, staying at home, and not getting dressed. While the press, unsurprisingly, widely publicized Chrissy’s admission, she has been adamant that she does not want attention or sympathy, he just wants to help other women who may be to ashamed or confused to seek the help they need.
5. Russell Brand – Addiction
Russell Brand is known for his outspoken antics, crazy comedy, and controversial stance on things like politics, religion, and sex. However, he has worked hard in his career to also be known for his sober lifestyle as a recovering drug addict. Brand often speaks about his personal struggle with addiction, talking about how heroin, alcohol, and other drugs helped him quiet his mind for years before he sought treatment. He has since been sober for more than ten years. Now, he wants not only to help others fight addiction, but even more to help everyone understand how to help, not judge, people with mental illness, like addiction.
4. Paula Deen – Anxiety, Depression
Before the queen of Southern comfort food was known for her Food Network empire, controversial comments, and stint on Dancing with the Stars, she was living in her own prison of mental illness. Suffering from debilitating anxiety and depression, Dean has said she eventually experience agoraphobia when she was around just twenty years old. Agoraphobia is characterized as part of anxiety disorder, when someone becomes so fearful of new or different places, they avoid them altogether. Dean has said that she went for long bouts of never leaving the house. When she did make it to the grocery store, she says she couldn’t go in very far, and instead cooked meals from only the foods found at the front of the store. Eventually getting treatment for her anxiety, Dean became a wildly successful caterer and eventually landed the TV show contract that found her fame. She is proof that recovery can be possible, even in the darkest times.
3. Robin Williams – Depression
Sometimes the brightest, funniest people are dealing with the darkest thoughts and feelings. Williams was not public about having a mental illness diagnosis, but he was open about having symptoms of mental illness. One of America’s most beloved and talented comedic actors, Williams was known for his roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, Jumanji, and countless other films. A singular talent, Williams unfortunately took his own life in in 2013. Williams had long been well-spoken about his struggles with feeling sometimes strong highs and lows, which often accompany depression. On NPR’s radio show Fresh Air, Williams talked about the difficulty of dealing with bouts of what sounded like depression. After his death, it was revealed that Williams has sought treatment for depression. His daughter, Zelda Williams, has since come out and spoken about what life was like as his daughter and how brilliant his unique mind made him.
2. Michael Phelps – ADHD
One of the most decorated Olympic athletes in recent years, Michael Phelps has made waves both in and out of the pool. Phelps has since cleaned up his public image and his now married and a doting dad. Phelps has used his fame and success as a platform to encourage young girls and boys to always chase their dreams, even if they have a diagnosed mental illness. Coming clean about his lifelong struggle with ADHD, Michael Phelps has helped to break down the stigma associated with the attention disorder. As a result, people young and old are inspired and encouraged to do the same.
1. Ben Affleck – Alcoholism
Just last week, Ben Affleck publicly acknowledged that he just completed a two-week rehab stay for alcoholism. No stranger to public criticism, Affleck has been honest about alcohol abuse in the past. Affleck has said that he came forward and sought treatment in order to be the best dad he can be for his three young children. He encourages other parents to do the same. Affleck is no stranger to mental illness when it comes to parents, he has been honest about how his own father’s alcohol addiction affected him as a child for years. Casey Affleck, his younger brother, recently won an Oscar for playing a character with alcohol abuse after coming clean about his sobriety. The Afflecks are symbols of how mental illness can be attributed to genetics, and that seeking treatment and help is okay, because there is power in numbers. Hey, even Batman needs help sometimes.
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