While nothing can excuse their behavior, not all celebrity meltdowns result from simple bad conduct.
Nearly 25 percent of Americans have been diagnosed with mental illness (with about 22 percent of them having a severe mental illness), and another estimated 22 million struggle with substance abuse [source: National Institute of Mental Health; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration]. And neither mental illness nor substance abuse cares if you're male, female, celebrity or an average Joe.
While some celebrity meltdowns are the result of ego or eccentricity, others are the result of something deeper. We've pulled together a list of famous meltdowns that may have had roots in mental illness or drug and alcohol addiction -- let's begin with Margot Kidder, the "Superman" star who fell into homelessness and rebounded as a spokesperson for psychiatric disorders.
Margot Kidder may be most famous for her role as Lois Lane in the "Superman" movies we know from the '70s and '80s. Or perhaps she's most famous for her meltdown that left her missing in Los Angeles in 1996.
In the spring of 1996, Margot was working on a book of her memoirs only to have them vanish at the strike of a computer virus. Days later, she would vanish, too. Margot wandered the streets of Los Angeles, suffering from paranoid delusions. When she was found four days later, she was disheveled and missing her front dental work and most of her hair, which she'd chopped off. Margot was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental illness that causes swings between extreme mania and extreme depression.
Today, Margot is an advocate for drug-free treatment of mental illnesses, treatments that emphasize vitamin supplements, avoidance of wheat and dairy as well as acupuncture and finding a life-balance to reduce stress.
The '70s and '80s were a prolific time for Billy Joel. He released several very successful albums and married supermodel Christie Brinkley. But in 1987, Billy made headlines during his tour of the U.S.S.R. Not for his music, but for an angry outburst he had while performing, culminating in him smashing an electric piano and microphone stand.
We may always think of him as the piano man, but what many may not know is that the world almost never got to hear that song because the singer/songwriter attempted suicide by drinking furniture polish back in 1970. Rather than ending his life, his suicide attempt failed, and he instead sought treatment for depression. Since then, the singer has struggled with depression and alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism is a disease that affects more than 17 million Americans, with no discrimination for gender, race or celebrity status. Alcoholics are unable to control their drinking. They crave it, suffer symptoms of withdrawal without it and need more and more of it to feel its effects -- this is addiction.
In 2006, actor David Hasselhoff and his wife Pamela Bach began divorce proceedings and subsequent custody battle for their two daughters, Taylor-Ann and Hayley. In 2007, a video of David drunk, rambling and trying to eat a burger in a hotel room surfaced on the Internet, and his private struggles became public entertainment. After the video was leaked, the actor apologized and issued a statement about his struggles with substance abuse and with being a recovering alcoholic.
Mariah Carey's voice spans more than five octaves, from alto to notes that are beyond soprano. That's special, as most singers are trained within a three-octave range. She was discovered when she was just 18 by Tommy Mottola, then-president of Columbia Records, and released her first album in 1990. It produced four No.1 singles. Mariah was a hit.
But by 2001, Mariah's world was cracking. She had split from her first husband, Mottola, and from Columbia Records. Mariah also made a surprise appearance on the MTV show "Total Request Live," where she passed out free popsicles from an ice-cream cart while stripping off an oversized T-shirt. She explained that her surprise appearance was her "therapy" and repeatedly told screaming fans and host Carson Daly, "You like this."
Whether Mariah's appearance was a publicity stunt or a sign of her instability, there's no disputing that, after her MTV performance and subsequent messages left on her Web site, Mariah was later hospitalized for a "physical and emotional collapse." After two weeks in psychiatric care, she was released from the hospital.
The late '90s weren't kind to actor Martin Lawrence.
In 1995, Martin was hospitalized after an angry, uncontrollable outburst on the set of the movie "The Thin Line between Love and Hate," his directorial debut. In 1996, his "Martin" co-star Tisha Campbell accused him of sexual harassment and battery, verbal abuse and other threats, before she quit the show [source: Turner Classic Movies]. That same year, Martin's wife slapped him with a restraining order after accusing him of physical abuse (and they divorced in 1997).
Right around this same time, Martin was arrested while attempting to board a plane while carrying a 9mm Beretta. He got into fights. He was found screaming at tourists -- while carrying a gun -- in the middle of Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles.
After the incident on Ventura Boulevard, Martin was hospitalized for exhaustion and dehydration. Others, including his ex-wife, cite his chronic marijuana and alcohol use (and possibly psychotropic medications) for his erratic behavior. Still others point to mental illness such as bipolar disorder. Although Martin admits he did smoke marijuana and has been treated for depression in the past, it was his three-day coma caused by heat exhaustion while jogging in heavyweight clothing that the actor cites as his reason for cleaning up his act.
Courtney Love. She's passionate, she's talented and she's outspoken. She lives a life so unlike the rest of us that it's difficult to pinpoint one particular meltdown. Where to begin? Her public and chronic substance abuse while married to Kurt Cobain? Her 1995 crash of a post-MTV Video Music Awards show interview Kurt Loder was conducting with Madonna? Her bizarre on (and off) stage antics? Her desire to snort her late husband's ashes?
She's fought drug addiction -- heroin, cocaine and prescription drugs -- as well as drug charges in court, and she's been in and out of rehab. She's fought for feminist ideals, stricter gun control laws and gay rights. Whatever else can be said about her, Courtney love is a fighter.
Courtney admits to being eccentric on her blog, but scorns those who label her with various mental illnesses.Whether it's what she says and does during interviews or during her on-stage performances, or what she posts on her Twitter feed or Facebook page, Courtney can't be tamed.
When Britney Spears appeared on the music scene in the late 1990s, she appeared to be the epitome of a shellacked pop princess. Kids and adults both went wild for the virginal Southern girl, and Britney fell in love with boy-band star Justin Timberlake.
By the end of 2002, Britney had three extraordinarily successful albums under her belt, had starred in the (unsuccessful) film "Crossroads" and was fresh from her break-up with Justin. What's a girl to do next? She kissed Madonna. She married a childhood friend -- for less than 55 hours. She became involved with Kevin Federline, one of her backup dancers, while his girlfriend was pregnant. Britney and Kevin married in September 2004. In September 2005, the couple welcomed son Sean Preston, and in September 2006, son Jayden James.
Two months after her second son was born, Britney filed for divorce from Kevin. While Britney's parenting skills were scrutinized after the birth of her first son, her public life began spiraling out of control after the birth of Jayden James. The new mom jumped into the club scene, went in and out of rehab, shaved her head and was in a series of car accidents, including a hit-and-run. She was ordered to take parenting classes and get help for drug and alcohol abuse. She even lost custody of her sons in 2008 after she was removed from her home and hospitalized in a psychiatric ward.
While it's unclear whether Britney suffers from mental illness in addition to substance abuse -- both bipolar disorder and postpartum depression have been cited, but never confirmed -- she's led a calmer life in the last few years.
There was a time when Whitney Houston was known for her five-octave range, her multiple Grammy awards and her penchant for being a diva. She married bad boy Bobby Brown in 1992. To say their marriage was tumultuous is to be kind -- they separated twice but Whitney and Bobby hung in there, despite his multiple encounters with the law and their well-documented drug use.
While Bobby has admitted to smoking marijuana and to living with bipolar disorder, Whitney has tried to keep her personal life quiet over the years. The two stayed in the public eye with stories of bizarre behavior, car accidents, domestic fights and drug possession. However, in 2002 Whitney sat down with Diane Sawyer on ABC's "Primetime" and told the world a few things: She's been accused of having an eating disorder. (She says no.) She's been accused of dying. (She's not dead yet.) She likes to party. (Yes, she does.) And in perhaps one of the most memorable moments of the interview, Whitney told us that crack is whack, but that these days she's moved on from her partying ways.
Charlie Sheen will be the first to tell you: He's on a drug called Charlie Sheen.
What does that even mean? No one is sure, but the actor began a public rampage and media frenzy in 2011 that leaves many wondering if Sheen is fueled by substance abuse, mental illness or a bit of both. He has a long history of erratic, angry and violent behavior and a well-documented history of drug abuse. During his current ongoing meltdown, he denies he's using drugs or alcohol and has passed supervised mandatory drug tests. He dodges questions about mental illness and whether he has bipolar disorder, but continues to tell it like he sees it, whether you like it or not.
Recordings of his verbal abuse toward ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva went public. He was pulled over for driving under the influence and famously called the female officer a colorful, "sugary" name -- in that same incident he went on to share his anti-Semitic viewpoint with the male officer.
Is Mel Gibson a bad guy or is his behavior coming from something deeper? Mel has admitted to a long-time battle with alcoholism, and in a 2002 interview, spoke briefly about the highs and lows he experiences that led to his diagnosis of bipolar disorder. While mental illness and addictions aren't an excuse for acting like a jerk, knowing the root of the problem is the only way to fix it.
Can you stand to learn more about celebrity meltdowns? If so, check out the next page for lots more information.
HowStuffWorks looks at the job categories with the highest suicide rates, according to the CDC.
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