11 Celebrities That are Owning Their Mental Illnesses

Image by Abby Lass

By Sophia Franco

Managing Editor of Features

Ruben Gallego

Ruben Gallego,  representative for the seventh district in Arizona, struggles with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of his military service during the Iraq War.  PTSD occurs when a person has experienced a terrifying or “traumatizing” event such as war or abuse. Today, Gallego advocates for better healthcare for veterans so they can stay healthy both physically and mentally.

Check out Gallego’s Twitter here.

Demi Lovato

Singer and actress Demi Lovato once suffered from the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia. These disorders caused her to carefully restrict her diet and “purge” herself of food by throwing up. Lovato now uses her fame to battle stigma surrounding mental illness.

“One of the reasons why I became so outspoken when I decided to come out of treatment and talk about my issues was because when I grew up I was dealing with the pressures to be thin,” Lovato said in an interview on Ellen. “It was the time in the tabloids when very, very skinny girls were on the cover of every magazine and that’s what I was looking up to. That’s what I had to idolize. I don’t want that for young girls to idolize.”

Robert Downey Jr.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. battled a serious drug addiction in his thirties that led to his arrest in 2000.  Although not always viewed as a mental illness, drug addiction contributes to serious mood problems and conflicts in relationships. In fact, some people with other mental illnesses develop addiction after using drugs to self-medicate. Therapy and rehabilitation stays have helped Downy Jr. kick his addiction and he has now been drug free for 13 years.

“Job one is get out of that cave,” Downey Jr. told Vanity Fair. “A lot of people do get out but don’t change. So the thing is to get out and recognize the significance of that aggressive denial of your fate, [and to] come through the crucible forged into a stronger metal.”

John Nash

John Nash, on whom the movie A Beautiful Mind was based, lived with paranoid schizophrenia, a disorder characterized by deluded fears and sensory hallucinations, particularly auditory messages.  Despite his illness, Nash graduated from Princeton and eventually earned the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994.

“I can see there’s a connection between not following normal thinking and doing creative thinking,” Nash said in an interview with The Irish Times. “I wouldn’t have had good scientific ideas if I had thought more normally. One could be very successful in life and be very normal, but if you’re Van Gogh or artists like that you may be a little off.”

Herschel Walker

Retired NFL running back and Heisman trophy winner Herschel Walker lives with dissociative identity disorder (DID), previously known as multiple personality disorder.  DID is defined by having two or more separate personalities or “alters”. Motivated by his passion for his religion and helped by counseling sessions, Walker now feels comfortable speaking out about DID in order to raise awareness for the impactful disorder.

“I talk about it now because there are still people out there today that are suffering,” Walker said in an interview with ESPN. “There’s guys in the league [NFL] that I’ve helped so much, that I’ve saved their lives.”

Jon Hamm

After suffering several personal losses, Mad Men actor Jon Hamm found himself battling severe depression.  Depression is a mood disorder that is accompanied by feelings of intense sadness, worthlessness, and an inability to take pleasure in activities that were once interesting. Having gone through treatment, Hamm now hopes that others can receive the help they need.

“I did do therapy and antidepressants for a brief period, which helped me,” Hamm said in an interview with The Observer. “What therapy does [is] it gives you another perspective when you are so lost in your own spiral, your own bullshit. It helps. And honestly? Antidepressants help!”

Catherine Zeta Jones

Actress Catherine Zeta Jones lives with bipolar II, a disorder characterized by periods of depression and shorter periods of mania.  In 2011 and 2013 Jones decided to check herself into in-patient programs where she learned different skills to help her cope with her feelings.  She is now outspoken about her struggle and about the benefits of receiving treatment.

“It’s not easy. I’m not the kind of person who likes to shout out my personal issues from the rooftops, but with my bipolar becoming public, I hope fellow sufferers will know it’s completely controllable,” Jones told Instyle. “I hope I can help remove any stigma attached to it, and that those who don’t have it under control will seek help with all that is available to treat it.”

Adam Levine

Adam Levine, singer, songwriter, and lead vocalist of the band Maroon 5 lives with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that impedes concentration and causes hyperactivity and impulsiveness.  Although ADHD is a disorder normally associated with children and adolescents, Levine found himself struggling to concentrate well into his adult years, finding it hard to focus on an album he was creating.  As a result Levine created the “Own It” campaign with the Attention Deficit Disorder Association to raise awareness about symptoms of ADHD that can continue on into adulthood.

“My doctor diagnosed me with ADHD in my early teens,” Levine explained over an email correspondence with the website VeryWell. “What was really helpful to me was learning that this was a real medical condition– I had ADHD. The diagnosis helped explain the challenges I was having in school, including my difficulty focusing, sitting down and getting my school work done.”

Daniel Radcliffe

British actor Daniel Radcliffe, famous for his starring role in the Harry Potter franchise, has battled with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) since he was five. OCD occurs when out of control thoughts (obsessions) lead to performing certain behavior (a compulsion), such as how Radcliffe often felt compelled to repeat every sentence he said under his breath. After receiving therapy, Radcliffe says he now finds his disorder much more manageable.

“I would encourage everyone to undergo therapy,” Radcliffe told British tabloid The Sun. “It doesn’t mean you’re insane or weak. I haven’t had [instances of OCD] this year so far and I’m missing it.”

Tulisa Contostavlos

Tulisa Contostavlos, a judge on the X Factor, struggles with dermatillomania, a body focused repetitive disorder that causes her to compulsively pick at her skin.  Therapy and medication have helped the singer regain control of her life.

In her autobiography Honest: My Story So Far, Contostavlos writes, “I was extremely lucky that my skin always healed quickly and without too much scarring, I went to see a hypnotist, and I tore my face up worse than I ever had before, but once I had healed, I finally managed to get it under control.”

Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall, a wide receiver for the New York Jets, suffers from borderline personality disorder, a highly misunderstood and stigmatized illness which causes instability in mood and difficulties with interpersonal relationships.  

“I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder a few years and got the right help, the right treatment, and now I’m advocating for it,” Marshall said in an interview with NBC Sports. “Mental health in itself is just so stigmatized, it’s a taboo topic in our homes, in our communities, and we need more people to talk about it and not make Titus Young or people like myself or others who can’t fight for themselves a national punchline.”


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Sophia Franco is the managing editor of features and loves running, particularly away from her own problems. Her other interests include, acting, being really short and pretending like she knows what’s going on.