In a recent question and answer forum, Dr. Holly Hein, who received her doctorate from the Institute of Clinical Social Work in Berkeley, California, addressed the prevalence of media exposure and the wave of celebrity breakdowns. She says, “The intense spotlight placed on celebrities only romanticizes the personal emotional problems many of us have as we try to live our lives. Those who are able to live as well adjusted people in their families would do so whether they were celebrities or not. It is difficult to want celebrity and then hide personal problems that are acted out.”
Dr. Hein suggests that the intense media scrutiny can be a double-edged sword. In some cases it brings mental issues to the forefront and expedites necessary treatment for people suffering these illnesses, such as Brittany Spears. Whereas years ago, when media coverage was minimal, many stars like Elvis Presley, fought their own demons behind closed doors and were not pushed to receive the care they so desperately needed.
The negative impact that heightened exposure has is two fold. First, the intense pressure of the spotlight can elevate stress levels and intensify symptoms. Secondly, public opinion may steer a person in the wrong direction for proper treatment. Because the media only reveals snippets of a person’s daily mood fluctuations, public figures are often immediately labeled based on limited information. Dr. Joe Calabrese , director of the Mood Disorders Program at University Hospitals, said in a recent article that it is impossible to diagnose Sheen without a proper examination, but also said he is exhibiting some of the classic signs of the manic phase of bipolar. Increased exposure can exacerbate symptoms of an underlying illness but hopefully will provide enough concern for the person at risk to seek the right form of treatment.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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