20 Celebrity Mental Breakdowns

It’s not uncommon that some of our society’s most brilliant and alluring individuals are often plagued with horrific personal and mental issues. In fact, sometimes these very sicknesses are connected to the individual’s shining moments – a genius and panache that come during moments of extreme highs. But unfortunately, what comes up must come down. And many times those people who seem so self-controlled, self-motivated, and self-confident are also the most haunted and self-destructive. Here’s a list of 20 celebrities who know all-too-much about mental illnesses and the terrifying mood swings that accompany a sick mind.


  1. Britney Spears: Britney Spears’ struggles with mental illness started to exhibit themselves most obviously after her divorce from Kevin Federline and the birth of her two sons. While Spears has yet to go public with a formal diagnosis from her doctor, she has been committed to a mental hospital, has been caught on camera shaving off her hair in a Los Angeles salon, and has had custody of her children revoked. Currently, Spears is still going through treatment and trying to regain the rights to her children. Her father Jamie Spears has been put in charge of her legal and monetary affairs, and while she seems to be keeping a lower profile these days, it’s unclear whether she is getting better at all.
  2. Rosie O’Donnell: With all the attention focused on Britney Spears’ antics these days, Rosie O’Donnell has sought to take some of the heat off the young starlet by speaking out about her own struggles with mental illness, saying she should be the poster child for metal disease. Recently she told a TV talk show host, “I have been on anti-depressants since Columbine.” O’Donnell has said that she believes she is bi-polar, an assumption that might be buffered by her quick temper and recent firing from The View, said to be because of her difficult personality.
  3. Marilyn Monroe: This legendary actress grew up in a world of mental illness. Her maternal grandparents and her mother all suffered from insanity. Her grandfather killed himself and her mother spent most of her adult life in a mental institution, where she died in the 1980s. Monroe kept a cheerful appearance in public, but in private she struggled mightily with depression. Her genetics and the fact that Monroe grew up in a series of foster homes didn’t give her much of a fighting chance against mental ills, and in 1962 Monroe was found dead of a supposed prescription drug overdose.
  4. Tim Burton: The eccentric filmmaker Tim Burton’s mental health has been under debate for many years, with many people assuming he was autistic. It turns out, however, that Burton suffers from bipolar disorder, an illness that afflicts many celebrities. People with bipolar disorder have violent mood swings characterized by extreme highs and crippling lows. Bipolar is also the correct term to describe what used to be called manic depressive disorder. Bipolar people are often said to be more creative, which may help explain Burton’s wildly imaginative films like Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
  5. Mike Wallace: 60 Minutes newsman Mike Wallace is known for his hard-hitting news stories and his tough exterior. But in 1984, after one of Wallace’s news reports about the Vietnam War resulted in a $120 million lawsuit, Wallace descended into a deep depression that was misdiagnosed and mistreated for several years. Wallace has since gotten much better and is a public advocate for those suffering from depression. He talks about his experience taking a plethora of drugs in an attempt to treat his illness and he even tried to commit suicide once by overdosing on pills. Today Wallace continues to heal and spends much time talking about depression, even testifying before the Senate about the disease.
  6. Patty Duke: Patty Duke, the all-American TV star, earned an Oscar at the ripe age of 16 for her portrayal of Hellen Keller. But living in a household where she was sexually abused and allowed to drink from a young age, Duke’s emotional problems began to arise. She began to have violent mood swings – dangerous highs and lows, which she later chronicled in a book and TV movie, both titled “Call Me Anna”. She said her first experience with the disease came at the age of 9 in the form of a panic attack, and she then struggled with depression and anxiety during her adolescence. While acting on her hit series “The Patty Duke Show”, Duke’s illness raged forth in a manner that could no longer be ignored. Her managers and childhood guardians got her medical attention, and she became drugged out on the wrong medicines that were ineffective at treating her bipolar disease. Over the years, Duke experienced many hospitalizations and therapies before finally finding the right combination with Lithium. She now lives a happy life and is in control of her illness.
  7. Francis Ford Coppola: Acclaimed movie director Francis Ford Coppola has been the brain behind legendary movies such as “The Godfather” Series and “Apocalypse Now” and he’s the father to another notable director, Sophia Coppola. But despite winning 5 Oscars and earning 36 other award nominations, behind the scenes Coppola also struggles with bipolar disease, which possibly explains why he is thought of as one of Hollywood’s most unpredictable and tempestuous directors. But it’s not uncommon for the disease to afflict such accomplished individuals, such as Coppola. Bipolar disorder is often called The CEO’s Disease because it’s common among many famous and not-so-famous leaders.
  8. Brooke Shields: Brooke Shields has been a leading lady in Hollywood since a child and has survived a high-profile marriage to tennis star Andre Agassi. Now on her second marriage, Shields recently wrote a book called “Down Came the Rain”, which chronicled her struggles with post-partum depression after the birth of her child Rowan. Shields describes in her book about how she heard destructive voices in her head, found it impossible to bond with her baby upon returning from the hospital and had no will to care for her daughter. Shields says she thought of suicide and felt like a failure. Shields tried anti-depressants. They worked and brought her to a place where she could bond with her baby. Though she was criticized heavily by her Scientologist friend Tom Cruise over her decision to medicate, Shields credits it with bringing her out of the fog. She now has a second daughter named Grier.
  9. Roseanne Barr: Comedienne Rosanne Barr was a TV sensation in the 1990s, starring in her self-named series in which she portrayed a dry, mid-western housewife with ease. But Barr is also one of the more controversial and polarizing figures of her time, as her crassness and blunt way of speaking turned many fans away. Her life has had its fair share of drama: she claims she was sexually abused as a child and her highly-publicized marriage to Tom Arnold ended in bitterness with her claiming domestic abuse. Roseanne also claims that she has multiple personality disorder, also known as dissociative personality disorder. While Barr wrote on her blog that she was relieved of many of the disease’s symptoms while on a trip to Israel, she also previously told Larry King in 2001 that she has been known to “regress” during times of great stress and that the disease makes her do “crazy things that you don’t know you do or want to do.” Barr also has been hospitalized for the disorder in the past.
  10. Carrie Fisher: Carrie Fisher is the daughter of Hollywood star Debbie Reynolds and she is best known for playing the role of Princess Leia in “Star Wars”. But despite her privileged pedigree and successful career, Fisher battled depression and bipolar disorder for years. Not knowing what was wrong with her, Fisher turned to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Even though a doctor suggested that she was manic and that she try Lithium when she was 24, Fisher didn’t believe him. It was only when she overdosed on drugs at the age of 28 that she began to listen to doctors more intently. Though Fisher says she’s experienced trouble with Lithium and has regressed in treatment, it eventually helped her calm her demons. Fisher wrote “Postcards from the Edge”, a bestselling book about her disease. She has also been recognized by many mental health associations for her work at raising awareness about the disorder.
  11. Jim Carrey: Jim Carrey grew up in an eccentric family, where everyone had to pitch in for rent. When his father lost his job, the family sank into poverty and everyone had to work, a situation that forced Carrey to drop out of high school. Now, Carrey is a riotously funny actor who’s made tens of millions of dollars acting crazy in front of the camera. Turns out part of that craziness can be attributed to the fact that he has long suffered from depression and has admittedly taken Prozac during bad spells. During a 60 Minutes interview, Carrey admitted to being on the drug for “a long time” before finding God and abandoning the medication for a strong ritual of spirituality. “I had to get off at some point because I realized everything is OK,” he said. Today, Carrey is dating Jenny McCarthy and together the two of them are raising McCarthy’s autistic son.
  12. Sinead O’Connor: Controversial Irish singer Sinead O’Connor made her fortune off her unique voice and buzz-cut hairdo. She also made headlines for ripping up a picture of the pope on a “Saturday Night Live” appearance. But it turned out that there was an explanation for her combative behavior and often-times attitude of anger toward the world – she was suffering from bipolar disorder and depression. O’Connor says that she started having very persistent thoughts about suicide at the age of 23 that clouded everything else in her life. She finally took herself to a hospital for the third time seeking psychiatric treatment. Though her previous therapies and admissions had never brought forth a diagnosis, this time it stuck and O’Connor was revealed to have bipolar disorder. She was prescribed medication, which she said has helped her enormously. She now lives outside Dublin and is the mother to four children.
  13. Hugh Laurie: “House” star Hugh Laurie plays a mentally disturbed doctor on TV, but in his real life Laurie has struggled with depression for many years, having received a clinical diagnosis for the disorder. While he continues to receive psychiatric treatment, he also has said that the disorder is not helped by the fact that he has to live in L.A., thousands of miles away from his family in London, while shooting his series. Laurie said that he first realized something was wrong with him while at a demolition derby where he felt “bored” by the exploding cars.
  14. Linda Hamilton: Linda Hamilton plays a tough lady in “The Terminator”, but in her private life she suffered anxiety attacks and a crippling depression from bipolar disorder. Hamilton, who says her father had also self-diagnosed himself with bipolar, said she was an overeater as a young woman trying to deal with depression. She drifted from food to drugs and alcohol, saying she was an alcoholic and wild child for some time. When Hamilton found success in Hollywood, her disease worsened and though she has been in some form of treatment since the age of 22 she was prone to frantic moods and wild outbursts. After the birth of her child, she succumbed to an even deeper depression and paranoid thoughts about his safety and suicidal thoughts of her own. Once diagnosed, she tried to treat her illness with diet and exercise, but eventually went on medication and says today she has found some balance.
  15. Maurice Benard: Similar to the path that Carrie Fisher took, Benard also suffers from bipolar disorder and also has had several psychotic experiences on his journey through treatment. Benard, who stars as Sonny on the soap opera “General Hospital”, recently went on the Oprah show to discuss his harrowing experience with bipolar disorder. He was diagnosed in his 20s and went on to meet and marry a woman, who knew about the disease. Benard says his lowest moment came during a night when his wife’s nieces were sleeping over and he, in a drunken and manic rage, threatened to kill all of them. Since that night, he says, he’s never stopped taking his medication again. But Benard says there were signs of his depression even before his diagnosis when he used to drink heavily as a teenager. He still works on “General Hospital” and has been recognized by many for coming forward with his story.
  16. Jean-Claude Van Damme: Martial arts star Jean-Claude Van Damme is best known for his ripped physique and action-packed movies. But perhaps the catalyst for his obsession with martial arts and physical training came from a depression that has plagued him since he was a child. Van Damme says as a young man he would work out endlessly to combat feelings of depression and self-loathing and that a day away from the gym was a day in the dumps. In 1993, he began using cocaine seriously to self-medicate, but three years later he checked himself into rehab. After a near-suicide attempt, Van Damme sought treatment and was diagnosed as bipolar. He now takes medication, which he says has turned his raging inward storm into a calm “lake.”
  17. Ben Stiller: Comedic actor Ben Stiller followed his parents’ footsteps in becoming an actor, but he also followed them in other ways. Both of his parents and Stiller have spoken out about depression. In 2001, Stiller spoke out about his own diagnosis of being bipolar, saying he has not been “the most easygoing guy.” Stiller is being treated for the disorder, and says there is a “rich history” of it in his family.
  18. Owen Wilson: Funny man Owen Wilson seemed to be living the life of a high-rolling Hollywood bachelor, starring in the hottest flicks and dating some of the most beautiful women, such as Kate Hudson. But in the summer of 2007, this image came to a screeching halt after it was reported that Wilson tried to commit suicide by slicing his wrists and taking a bunch of pills. The suicide attempt was attributed to many things – like his break-up with Hudson – but sources indicated that the troubles went much deeper. Wilson, who has a history of drug and alcohol abuse and spent time in rehab in 2000, was said to still be using illicit substances regularly and trying to treat a deep depression through self-medication. Friends said he had sunk into a deep depression weeks before the suicide attempt, and he is now said to be taking anti-depressants. He has since rebounded from the ordeal and appears to be doing better.
  19. Winona Ryder: Doe-eyed Winona Ryder became a tabloid hit in 2001 when she was caught shoplifting quite a bit of contraband from a Saks Fifth Avenue store. She stood trial for the crime, pleading not guilty. During her arrest, however, Ryder was also caught with many prescription drugs on her person for which she didn’t have prescriptions. Since that incident, Ryder has spoken about her struggles with anxiety attacks and depression, saying that she has tried hospitalizations, medication, and therapy and said she sometimes feels “broken and confused.” Ryder continues treatments, is in a relationship, and has starred in a few movies in the past few years.
  20. George Michael: 80s music sensation George Michael has had a glamorous life with some tawdry details. In 1998, Michael, who is gay, was in a public restroom with a cop who later arrested the singer for lewd behavior. In 2006, Michael was arrested for possession of drugs, investigated for driving under the influence, and arrested again for drugs in three separate incidents. He has admitted to problems with drugs and to suffering from depression.

7 thoughts on “20 Celebrity Mental Breakdowns

  1. I think the title you chose was quite hurtful and insensitive to bipolar sufferers. They aren’t “whack jobs” and they aren’t “crazy.” They are people who have chemical imbalances in their brains.

    Might as well mock people in wheelchairs. Go ahead, start mocking the physically disabled, like you mocked the mentally ill.

  2. Interesting comment, it’s amazing that people that are a little different are considered mentally ill. So, most normal people are boring. That makes 50% of the population mentally including President’s, dictators, lobbyists, actors, musicians, writer’s or is it a business for the doctors psychiatrist’s and the Pharmacology industry…Isn’t normal to be upset if one looses a job, love, family, money, and in addition there is alcohol, which is a problem for drinkers…Why is mental disease considered more of a taboo than an alcoholic, or even a wealthy person that is in and out of jail like Lyndsay Lohan or Marty Sheen etc.

  3. @Displeased – Funny, I did not see anyone called a “whack job” or “crazy” in the whole article. I see no insult at all beyond being singled out. But hey, these folks sought fame and that means their laundry is let out for all to see.
    @Coco – Just because so many people are afflicted does not mean that they are not sick. When the cold/ flu is going around and seemingly everybody has it you don’t say they are normal and not sick. That’s just stupid.

  4. The title is fine… There’s no reason why breakdown/meltdown shouldn’t apply to every erratic, odd or disturbing episode regardless of the cause be it drugs or mental illness.

  5. @displeased Don’t have a clue what you’re on about. The title is just fine and they said nothing insulting towards any of the names mentioned…

    The title said they had mental breakdowns, which is what they had. Grow up and stop trying to make others feel guilty for no reason.

  6. After my son had an acute psychotic episode 18 months ago. it’s reassuring that celebrities have been vulnerable and admitted to having mental ill health. This has highlighted that it’s just like any other illness and nothing to hide away.

  7. 1.) Yes, mental illness is as real and life-threatening as heart disease or cancer.

    2.) It’s also true that the definition of mental illness has expanded to include nearly every possible trait or behavior. Things that used to be considered part of one’s personality are now symptoms of a mental illness. Diagnosis is based on subjective reports of symptoms or observations of behaviors by doctors. There are still no objective diagnostic tests like brain scans or genetic testing, yet powerful mind-altering drugs are dispensed like candy as a treatment. Not exactly scientific.

    3.) Labeling the mentally ill as “wack jobs” or other degrading terms perpetuates stigma and stereotypes that have been around since the Dark Ages.

    4.) Just as mental illness can be used to stigmatize, it can also be used to excuse bad behavior in privileged celebrities who get caught breaking the law.

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