10 Celebrities Who Battled Addiction and Mental Illness

by Destiny Bezrutczyk | |  

Celebrities Who’ve Battled Co-Occurring Disorders: Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

Anyone can develop mental health and substance use disorders (SUD), regardless of age, race, or background. Celebrities, too, must often battle co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders – sometimes made worse by the spotlight. Moreover, drugs and alcohol can aggravate symptoms of depression, mania, anxiety, paranoia, and more. Below are 10 celebrities who have struggled to maintain positive mental health while also struggling with substance abuse.

1. Britney Spears

Britney Spears, 37, made headlines again this April, after checking into a mental health center. While the hashtag #FreeBritney circulated on social media, others were reminded that the singer has sought treatment multiple times since 2007 for her mental health. Spears had admitted to being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and suffering from postpartum depression in the past.

Drugs and alcohol often aggravate symptoms of some mental health disorders. Spears has admitted to excessive drinking, “dabbling” with drugs, and being a “smoker” (referring to marijuana).

2. Demi Lovato

Fellow Disney teen star, Demi Lovato, similarly struggled through her twenties with substance abuse and her mental health. In July 2018, the 25-year-old overdosed at home in the Hollywood Hills and had to be revived with Narcan (an anti-Opioid overdose medication). For years, Lovato has been open about addiction and how that’s affected her bipolar disorder and disordered eating. For the pop singer, relapse has been a part of recovery – she relapsed after 6 years of sobriety last year – yet she pushes onward, sharing her journey with her fans via social media.

What I’ve learned is that this illness is not something that disappears or fades with time. It is something I must continue to overcome and have not done yet. I want to thank God for keeping me alive and well.

- Demi Lovato, Instagram, 2018

As a teenager, Russell Brand said he started using drugs and alcohol. He was also treated for depression and had problems binge eating.

3. Russel Brand

As a teenager, Russell Brand said he started using drugs and alcohol. He was also treated for depression and had problems binge eating. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADHD. Yet, the British comedian didn’t let that stop him. In 2002, he began his recovery journey and has since raised money for drug treatment programs, advocated better mental health resources, and in 2017 released the book Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions.

If you’re addicted to bad relationships, bad food, abusive bosses, conflict, or pornography, it can take a lifetime to spot the problem, and apparently a lifetime is all we have.

- Russell Brand, Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions, 2017

4. Jada Pinkett Smith

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook show “Red Table Talk” has allowed a number of guests to be open about troubling experiences in their lives. Jada, 47, has also opened up about the effect her mother’s hard drug use had on her as a child, as well as her own addictions. For instance, she recently admitted to having a sex addiction and that she and husband, Will Smith, continue to work on themselves and their marriage.

I had many addictions, of several kinds, to deal with my life issues, but today, at 42, I have my wisdom, my heart and my conscience as the only tools to overcome life’s inevitable obstacles.

- Jada Pinkett Smith,LA Times, 2013

5. Mary-Kate Olsen

For her 18th birthday, Mary-Kate Olsen chose to enter treatment at an undisclosed facility for anorexia and disordered eating following an intervention by her family. The fashion icon and Full House alum is said to have also struggled with cocaine abuse – a stimulant often abused by people trying to lose weight.

While Mary-Kate rarely speaks to reporters and has never spoken publicly herself about an eating disorder, when Elle magazine brought the subject up in a cover story interview, the fashion mogul replied, “I think it’s important that what anybody goes through — and I’m not saying that it’s true or not true — you realize it’s part of growing up. Everybody is going to go through hard times. It’s a part of life. I think the hardest part to get to is that point of asking for help or reaching out to other people and being honest with yourself.”

6. Jean-Claude Van Damme

Before being diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, action star Jean-Claude Van Damme struggled with an addiction to cocaine and alcohol, was arrested for drunk driving, and charged with domestic violence. He now takes Lithium and credits proper mental health treatment for turning his life around.

Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is one of four types of bipolar disorder and involves extreme highs and lows and 4 distinct mood episodes each year. Substance abuse, especially involving stimulants, can worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Young pop star, Justin Bieber, started his journey to recovery in 2014 after years of making headlines for his bad behavior and drug use.

7. Justin Bieber

Young pop star, Justin Bieber, started his journey to recovery in 2014 after years of making headlines for his bad behavior and drug use. The “Sorry” singer admits his drug use “got pretty dark”, that he had a “problem with sex”, and that he suffered from depression while touring. Since going through detox, the married man (wife, Hailey Baldwin Bieber) says he’s now able to drink socially but has avoided narcotics since.

I found myself doing things that I was so ashamed of, being super-promiscuous and stuff, and I think I used Xanax because I was so ashamed.

- Justin Bieber, Vogue, 2019

Among people with an addiction, feelings of guilt and shame often lead to greater amounts of substance abuse. Resolving the underlying triggers behind drug use can help those struggling with addiction to recover and develop new, healthy coping strategies.

8. Kurt Cobain

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was diagnosed as a child with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and bipolar disorder, and his family had a history of suicide. For years, Cobain and wife, Courtney Love, abused drugs like heroin, cocaine, and pills – even as Cobain struggled with severe depression. Yet, the singer never sought treatment and died of suicide in 1994 at 27-years-old.

9. Carrie Fisher

Known globally as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Carrie Fisher admitted that she struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for years. Initially, she found sobriety at 29-years-old and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder the next year – while someone is abusing substances, most medical professionals will not diagnose a mental health disorder. Fisher went on to become a prolific writer and stand-up comedian, before her death in 2016. Coroner’s found cocaine, heroin, methadone, other opiates, alcohol and ecstasy in her system but could not conclusively report that they were the cause of death.

My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases… I know my Mom, she’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles.

- Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher’s daughter, 2017

10. Ernest Hemingway

One of the most famous writers of the twentieth century, Ernest Hemingway suffered from bouts of severe anxiety and depression, which eventually contributed to his development of alcoholism. Books have been made of the For Whom the Bells Tolls author’s quotes on alcohol and drinking. More recently, studies reveal Hemingway’s heavy drinking habits may have exacerbated his traumatic brain injuries, deteriorating the writer’s grip on sound decision-making until his death. In 1961, Hemingway shot and killed himself in Idaho.

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