Why are Actors More Likely to Struggle With Substance Abuse Than Their Counterparts?

Paracelsus Recovery
4 min readMar 10, 2023

Read on to Find Out More About Specialised Substance Abuse Dependency Treatment for Actors.

From the outside looking in, those in the acting industry ‘have it all.’ Exciting lives, financial security, access to the best events, and the adoration of fans. However, in our experience, most performers live with constant pressure, a sense of alienation from society, and virtually no privacy.

For example, celebrities often exist in a vortex where once you become famous, you are othered from the general public. In its simplest definition, this means that who you become is secondary to who people think you are. Being othered and alienated is always painful and isolating. Pain and loneliness set the stage for mental health issues. Increasing the public’s awareness that fame is a danger, not a blessing, is essential.

For example, in the case of pop musicians, one study even found that the stress, isolation, and bullying that come with living in the public eye decreases their lifespan by up to 25 years. In our experience, Oscar winners are almost seven times more likely to struggle with mental health issues. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we see a lot of substance abuse. In most cases, it responds to the fear and pain of fame. In other cases, it is an unconscious way to regain control over your life.

Image Description: An infographic outlining the three main reasons celebrities are at an increased risk for mental health issues.

Why do Actors Struggle so much with Their Mental Health?

While numerous factors are at play, lack of consistency and overnight fame can often play a role in the development of mental health issues in the acting industry. For example, as the famous saying goes, an actor’s life tends to be a ‘famine or feast’ cycle, which can be exhausting. The human brain is hard-wired to crave routine and structure. Without it, actors tend to feel that they are never safe or can never fully trust their success.

However, what makes an actor’s inconsistent work even more difficult than your typical freelancer is how they are treated when they are working vs when they are not. For example, when you make a movie, the lead actor’s feelings will impact his performance. This, in turn, affects the success of the film. As a result, a working actor could have an entire team around him catering to his every need. All eyes are on him all the time. But then filming ends, and he is suddenly not at the centre of everyone else’s universe. Coming down from that high can be challenging, and this period is often highly vulnerable.

We have treated a few clients for issues such as PTSD or trauma symptoms due to overnight fame. In most cases, it can be an overwhelming experience that creates a kind of rigid character split in the person’s psyche between their “celebrity self” and their “authentic self.” Splitting is a typical trauma response to feelings of overwhelming fear. As a result, the person often feels utterly different from moment to moment, which can be painful as they begin to lose trust in themselves.

In addition, overnight fame means you wake up one day, and the entire world knows your name. If it is because your latest movie was a success, then the world is singing your praise. This experience of support and adoration can trigger unfathomable amounts of dopamine and serotonin.

As a result, these individuals can become accustomed to specific’ highs.’ But when interviews, blue checkmarks, millions of followers, and red-carpet events become your new routine, they no longer provide those feel-good chemicals. Over time, people can start to seek them out in substances.

Life in the Public Eye

In our experience, social media has become one of the most stressful aspects of a celebrity’s career. Celebrities have always been living Rorschach tests which are appreciated not for who they are but for who the public decides they are. But in today’s world, they cannot even escape to the comfort of their home. The public is in their hand and with them all the time.

In addition, social media worsens the mental health of Oscar winners because it eradicates the boundary between fantasy and fiction. While this is difficult for all kinds of celebrities and those in the public eye, it is particularly challenging for actors who must retain a clear division between their actual selves and the characters they play. As a result, it can lead to complicated mental health issues like multiple personality disorder or bipolar disorder.

For example, online bullying is notoriously pervasive and detrimental to celebrity’s health. But what happens when you play a villain in a movie and then start receiving abuse on your social media accounts directed toward the character?

Or what if your self-esteem is tied up with your follower count, and you start losing them because they didn’t like the character you played? These kinds of situations happen all the time, and they impact actors’ mental health.

Specialised Treatment for Actors at Paracelsus Recovery

At Paracelsus Recovery, we understand the unique difficulties actors face and are here to help. We only have one client at a time to ensure the strictest confidentiality and the most immersive treatment method money can buy. We adopt a harm-reductionist approach to addiction treatment, understanding that our environment can make us vulnerable to addiction or mental ill-health. This is particularly true for those in the spotlight — who must battle fears and anxieties most of us cannot fathom.

During your stay in Zurich, you’ll stay at a private residence, which may be a luxury hotel or our exclusive clinical residence, depending on your preference. A live-in therapist will be on call around the clock, and you’ll also have a private chef, housekeeper, butler, and access to a limousine with a driver.

To know more, please follow us on Twitter or contact us directly at info@paracelsus-recovery.com.



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