Many celebrities have sought treatment
A number of other stars have sought treatment for drug or alcohol problems, including Haley Joel Osment (star of The Sixth Sense), Mel Gibson, Robin Williams, Robert Downey Jr., and soprano Andrea Gruber, who sang with the Metropolitan Opera.
Many talented artists can be identified as unusually sensitive, and may use drugs or alcohol to help deal with their sensitivity.
Awareness can be overwhelming
Psychologist Elaine Aron identifies The Highly Sensitive Person [the title of one of her books] as someone having an uncommonly sensitive nervous system, and says it is a normal occurrence for about 15 to 20 percent of the population.
“It means you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations,” she notes. “It also means you are more easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sights and sounds until you are exhausted.”
A strategy gone awry
Johnny Depp has blamed his previous alcohol addiction in his early movie career on his needing to block his discomfort. He said in a magazine interview:
“I’d go to functions and back in those days I literally had to be drunk to be able to speak and get through it. I guess I was trying not to feel anything. My drug of choice back then was alcohol more than anything.”
Beverly Hills addiction psychologist Marc F. Kern, Ph.D., notes that altering one’s state of consciousness is normal and that a destructive habit or addiction is “mostly an unconscious strategy” and “simply an adaptation that has gone awry.”
In their article A Bioanthropological Overview of Addiction, Doris F. Jonas, Ph.D. and A. David Jonas, M.D. write people sensitive to perceiving the minutest changes in their environment can become overwhelmed.
Those with less sensitive nervous systems are, they write, “better adapted to our more crowded living conditions. The more sensitive can only attempt to ease their discomfort by blunting their perceptions with alcohol or depressive drugs or, alternatively, by using consciousness-altering drugs to transport their senses from the dysphoric world in which they live to private worlds of their own.”
Fortunately, many gifted and talented actors, musicians and others have been able to stay healthy and use their high sensitivity to give us the pleasure of their outstanding performances.
[Photo from Keith Urban album Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing]
Growing Up Gifted Is Not Easy by Elaine Aron, PhD