Recently we have been talking about famous people who have anxiety disorders. We began this series by sharing some of the celebrities who are known to have obsessive compulsive disorder. In this post we will be focusing upon those famous people, including singers and actors who suffer from what is known as Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia. It is hard to imagine someone whose job is to be in the media spotlight in front of lots of people to have a fear of social situations. But this can and does happen. It just goes to show you that nobody is immune to developing an anxiety disorder. Even those people who make their living on screen or in front of large audiences can feel extreme anxiety. It also shows that you can still become successful despite having an anxiety disorder such as social phobia.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by extreme anxiety or fear of everyday social situations. Each sufferer is unique in what social situations may trigger the fear response. For one person, conversing with others in a group may cause great anxiety. For another person, the act of eating and drinking in front of others may produce panic and dread. If the disorder is extreme, the anxiety may be present during any social situation, making life exceptionally difficult to navigate. There is a common fear among most sufferers that they will somehow be judged or humiliated and that they may do something embarrassing in front of others.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 15 million adults (over the age of 18) have some sort of social anxiety disorder in the United States. Social phobia often begins in childhood and early adolescence.
Which celebrities have Social Anxiety Disorder?
• Kim Basinger
Most people know Kim Basinger from her many movie roles including being a Bond girl in Never Say Never Again, or for her performance in films such as The Natural or 9½ Weeks. Basinger speaks openly about suffering from social anxiety and can recall feeling fear over reading out loud in class. Her fear was so extreme that teachers believed she was having a nervous breakdown. When she accepted her Oscar for her role in the movie, LA Confidential, she was struggling to find her words despite having rehearsed her speech for days.
Basinger took part in discussing her social anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and agoraphobia in an HBO film called Panic: A film about coping. Basinger has been quoted in the media about her fears: "When I came to Hollywood, I could wear a bikini, but I was in misery because people were looking at me. So I wore baggy clothes and watched other girls get the big parts and awards. I used to go home and play piano and scream at night to let out my frustrations. And this led to my agoraphobia."
It is reported that therapy has helped Basinger but that she is still susceptible to both panic attacks and symptoms of agoraphobia.
• Barbra Streisand
We tend to think of Barbara Streisand as a fearless and multi-talented celebrity. Most people know that Barbara Streisand has sung in front of millions of people and that she is an award winning actress. But what we may not know is that this mega-star also suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder. In an interview with Diane Sawyer Streisand opened up about her decades long battle with performance anxiety. Her social phobia began in 1967 when she forgot the lyrics to one of her songs during a live performance in New York’s Central Park. As a perfectionist, Streisand could not forgive herself or find the courage to get back on a public stage to sing. As a result, she did not give a live performance again for almost thirty years. Streisand talked about her underlying fear during the interview when she confessed, "I didn't sing and charge people for 27 years because of that night ... I was like, 'God, I don't know. What if I forget the words again?” It wasn’t until 1994 that she returned to giving concerts but used a teleprompter so she would not have to worry about forgetting lyrics.
In an interview with Oprah, reprinted in the October 2006 issue of O,The Oprah Magazine, Streisand talks about using medication to help with her anxiety: “One reason I can perform now is that they have pills for stage fright. I wish somebody had told me about these pills years ago.” I think her fans also wish that she had been told about treatment and medication years ago. Imagine all the opportunities we missed to see Streisand perform live.
• Donny Osmond
There is something very likeable about Donny Osmond. Despite his great fame as a pop star he still comes across as very approachable and humble. In a 2000 interview televised on the CBS news show, 48 Hours. Donny Osmond revealed that he had been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. Osmond traces his disorder back to his pre-teen years. Despite his many public appearances he still had extreme stage fright. This validates my own theory that some people do face their fears on a regular basis but are still afraid. Osmond confessed during the 48 Hours interview that "There are times I remember before I walked on stage," he said, "where if I had the choice of walking on stage or dying, I would have chosen death." The underlying reason for the fear was the extreme pressure to be perfect.
When Donny Osmond’s panic attacks became severe he got help from a therapist named Jerilyn Ross who runs the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. The treatment worked and he now has a method to deal with his fear. Osmond was quoted as saying, "I know when I walk out there, I'm not going to give the best performance," he said. "I'll make a mistake. I'll trip. I'll do something stupid. But it's OK; you pick up and just move on." Good advice for anyone who is battling social anxiety.
Hearing these stories makes me feel better. It helps to know that I am not alone in experiencing social anxiety. The celebrities mentioned are highly successful at what they do as performers for millions of adoring fans yet they still battled anxiety and fear. The other positive thing to glean from these stories is that there is help and there is treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder. You don’t have to do this alone. You can get support and effective treatment.
We are here to support you in your quest to overcome your anxiety. Please share your story with us. You never know when your story just might help someone else who is going through the same thing.
For more information about Social Anxiety Disorder and treatment please read any of the following Health Central articles: