If you are rich and famous, you’re automatically happy, content, and loving life, right?
Is this even a serious question? (It’s not.)
When we were younger, we may have dreamt of becoming rich and famous. After all, money buys luxurious houses, fancy cars, nice clothes and of course, expensive shoes. Let’s not get started on the shoes!
Sounds wonderful, right?
Maybe in our dreams, but let’s look at this more realistically.
There is also a dark side to fame and fortune—a side that is thankfully becoming more discussed: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The pressure of constantly being in the public eye, along with the demands of maintaining a high-profile lifestyle, can certainly take a toll on someone’s mental health.
Many celebrities and wealthy individuals are increasingly being diagnosed with PTSD, which begs the question: what is the relationship between fame, fortune, and PTSD?
The correlation between fame, fortune, and PTSD is complex and poorly understood, as there is limited research that specifically examines the relationship between these factors. However, there is some evidence to suggest that fame and fortune can increase the risk of developing PTSD symptoms.
First, what is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often associated with war veterans, but this disorder can affect anyone who has experienced trauma.
In fact, unfortunately, PTSD is common. Approximately 70% of adults have experienced some type of traumatic event in their lifetimes. Around 20% of these people develop PTSD. This statistic equates to 44.7 million people worldwide who suffer from PTSD.
PTSD can be triggered by a single event (acute trauma), or by a series of events (chronic trauma). These events can include:
- Physical or sexual assault
- Natural disasters
- Serious accidents or injuries
- Witnessing violence or death
- Loss of a loved one
- Neglect or abandonment
- Military combat
- Life-threatening medical diagnoses
- Any traumatic experience
It’s important to note that, when it comes to trauma, it’s not just objective facts that determine how traumatic an experience is. A stressful and overwhelming experience for one person might not adversely affect someone else exposed to the same experience.
The level of emotional response is subjective to the person. Oftentimes, the more a person feels their safety is at risk—or that they’re helpless—in any given situation, the higher the level of traumatization they’ll experience.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD symptoms may range, and some people may not necessarily realize that they are actually suffering from PTSD. However, symptoms generally interfere with a person’s ability to function in everyday life and include:
- Intense psychological distress
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- Concentration problems
- Suicidal ideation
- Avoidance of people, places, and experiences related to the traumatic event
What about fame and fortune?
Fame and fortune can be both wonderful and awful at the same time.
The benefits of fame and fortune seem obvious:
- Access to luxury goods
- Preferential treatment
- Influence and power
- Financial stability
- Social status
- Opportunities, including travel
However, celebrities are often seen as role models and trendsetters, and the media closely scrutinizes their actions. The pressure for celebrities to maintain a perfect image can be overwhelming, leading to stress and anxiety.
The downsides of fame and fortune, that we don’t often see, are significant. Celebrities are often targets of harassment, stalking, and even violence. The paparazzi follow them around relentlessly, hoping to capture an embarrassing moment to be sold straight to the tabloids. This constant intrusion can lead to paranoia and a feeling of being constantly watched.
Wealth also comes with its own set of challenges. The wealthy are often expected to maintain a certain level of extravagance, which can be difficult to sustain. The pressure to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ can be overwhelming, leading to overspending and financial insecurity.
Fame and fortune can contribute to the development of PTSD in many ways. For example, celebrities and wealthy individuals may be more likely to experience traumatic events such as:
- Intense public scrutiny
Additionally, the pressure to maintain success and public image can be overwhelming, leading to stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues. This pressure can be particularly intense for individuals in the entertainment industry, where the public’s interest in their personal lives can be limitless.
Celebrities with PTSD
One example of a celebrity who has spoken openly about their struggles with PTSD is Lady Gaga, an American singer, songwriter, and actress. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2020, Gaga revealed that she developed PTSD after being sexually assaulted at the age of 19. She also spoke about the pressure of maintaining her image as a pop star and how it contributed to her anxiety and mental health struggles.
Another example is actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has spoken about his experiences with depression and anxiety. In an interview with The Express, Johnson revealed that his past struggles with poverty and homelessness had a lasting impact on his mental health, and that fame and fortune did not necessarily solve all of his problems.
Alanis Morrisette is a Canadian songwriter and singer who has spoken out about her PTSD. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, she said that she believed fame caused her PTSD. In reference to gaining fame, she said, “The traumatized person, in this case, me, gets traumatized by the thing I thought would be the balm. I thought that everything would be helped and soothed and healed by fame.”
American actor and filmmaker Shia LaBeouf has opened up about his PTSD as a result of childhood trauma. He has also battled substance abuse, which began early on. He states, “[My dad] gave me my first joint when I was probably 11 or 12.” LaBeouf then began abusing alcohol, which began a downward spiral to legal issues.
It is important to recognize that fame and fortune do not guarantee happiness or mental well-being. On the contrary, they can often contribute to the development of mental health issues such as PTSD.
So, does fame and fortune cause PTSD?
It can, but the correlation is more complex than a simple “yes” or “no.”
For example, in the case of the “Riverdale” actor Cole Sprouse. Sprouse opened up about his PTSD, which started at a young age. In an interview with the New York Times, he talks about fame as a kind of “trauma” and how the young female actresses of the Disney Channel went through much worse than he did.
“My brother and I used to get quite a bit of, ‘Oh, you made it out! Oh, you’re unscathed!’ No. The young women on the channel we were on were so heavily sexualized from such an earlier age than my brother and I that there’s absolutely no way that we could compare our experiences. And every single person going through that trauma has a unique experience.”
One research study examined the relationship between rock and pop stars and premature mortality to determine if there is any significant correlation. The study found that fame increases opportunities to indulge in risky behaviors such as substance abuse, but adverse early-life experiences are more to blame.
Overall, while fame and fortune are not direct causes of PTSD, they can create conditions that increase the risk of developing this condition.
It’s important for anyone who has experienced trauma or who is struggling with PTSD symptoms to seek professional help and support right away.
Good news: PTSD is treatable
PTSD can happen to anyone, and the good news is it’s treatable.
The first step is realizing you have it and seeking the support you need. It’s never too late to get help.
With counseling and treatment, people suffering from PTSD can live healthy and productive lives and even help others recover from trauma.
There are various evidence-based treatments available that have been proven to be effective in helping those with PTSD. These treatments include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both.
HelpGuide.org presents some positive ways of coping with PTSD symptoms:
- Learn about trauma and PTSD
- Join PTSD support groups
- Confide in someone you can trust
- Avoid using alcohol and drugs
- Enjoy the outdoors
- Exercise regularly
Just like any treatment plan, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating PTSD. What works for one person may not work for another, so it’s essential to work with a mental health professional who can tailor treatment to meet your individual needs.
The bottom line
While fame and fortune comes with some great benefits, there are also significant challenges that can take a toll on an individual’s mental health. PTSD is a condition that affects people who have experienced trauma, and the rich and famous are not immune to its effects.
Treatment for PTSD should be tailored to the individual’s unique needs and experiences, regardless of their level of fame. It is important to recognize the impact of fame and fortune on mental health and to seek help if necessary. If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD or another mental health condition, it is essential to seek professional help.
How can Tikvah Lake help?
At Tikvah Lake, we are professionals in providing skilled, compassionate treatment that empowers clients to move past trauma and into fulfilling lives.
Our team of mental health experts at Tikvah Lake Recovery helps with all types of mental health problems, including PTSD. Our personalized treatment program provides clients with instrumental knowledge and the life skills and coping strategies needed to create healthy, sober lives.
If you’d like to talk to us about the relationship between PTSD, mental illness, and addiction, or find out how we can help, please contact us.