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20 Celebs Owning Their Health Issues to Squash the Stigmas

Ally Hirschlag is a producer/actor/writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY and buys way too many toys for her cats. She contributes to several publications, including Bustle, and The Nerve, and enjoys writing about all things woman. In her spar...

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They're real people

WENN
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They're real people

We often think of celebrities as just gifts from Hollywood, beamed to us through big and small screens for the sole purpose of our entertainment. But celebs aren't just gods who are free from problems — they're human, and they deal with serious health issues just like the rest of us.

So it turns out they sometimes find a calling that's much more important than a song and dance. These stars bravely bring awareness to illnesses from which they suffer to help others.


Originally published April 2016. Updated January 2017.

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Selena Gomez

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Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez has been known to take intermittent breaks from the spotlight, which led to speculation she had substance abuse problems in the past. But in October 2015, Gomez confessed that she was battling lupus — a chronic autoimmune disease — not addiction.

"That's what my break was really about. I could've had a stroke," she told Billboard magazine, adding that it was hard to listen to people gossip about her health. "I wanted so badly to say, 'You guys have no idea. I'm in chemotherapy. You're assholes.' I locked myself away until I was confident and comfortable again."

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Catelynn Lowell

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Catelynn Lowell

This beautiful star of MTV's Teen Mom battled an intense case of postpartum depression for a year after her daughter was born. Her husband said there were many days where she'd refuse to get out of bed, and she would send her daughter to stay with her own mother. After she was diagnosed, she did seek treatment and has made great progress.

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Lena Dunham

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Lena Dunham

People often joke about how Lena Dunham's character on Girls is Woody Allen-level neurotic, but what many don't realize is how much of Hannah Horvath's mental issues are taken from Dunham's life. For example, just like Horvath, Dunham has been struggling with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) as well as anxiety and depression all her life. However, she's recently found working out really helps clear her brain of all of her anxious thoughts. That's why she shared this statement with her fans, “To those struggling with anxiety, OCD, depression: I know it’s mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen,” she wrote. “I’m glad I did. It ain’t about the ass, it’s about the brain.”

There are OCD helplines you can access, but sometimes just getting to the root of the problem with a psychologist is more helpful. 

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Cara Delevingne

Steve Granitz/Getty Images
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Cara Delevingne

Cara Delevingne has been battling depression since she was a teenager. At times, she was suicidal because she felt she was all alone in her mental illness. However, after years of muddling through it, she finally got help and is now spreading messages of hope to her fans. "It’s about finding people who care about you and support you," she said in an interview. 

If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can get help by calling or messaging the National Suicide Hotline

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Brooke Shields

Monica Schipper/Getty Images
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Brooke Shields

After going through an incredibly difficult conception process and finally giving birth to her baby girl, actress Brooke Shields suffered from a severe bout of postpartum depression. The worst part about this disease is it can sneak up on you because you're so focused on the well-being of your baby rather than your own.

After two years, Shields started feeling better and now lends her support to Fertility Lifelines (1-866-538-7879), a free service for women going through similar issues.

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Michael J. Fox

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Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox's struggle with Parkinson's disease is well-known because he made a point to speak out about it. The progressive disorder of the nervous system makes life incredibly difficult for those who suffer from it, and it becomes increasingly harder to hide. However, thanks to Fox's advocacy and research foundation, a lot more is being done than ever before to find treatments for the disease.

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Demi Lovato

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Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato also has had a long struggle with depression. In fact, she reported feeling suicidal at the tender age of 7. She finally checked into rehab back in 2010 for emotional and physical issues, including bulimia, cutting and bipolar disorder. "I had no idea that I was even bipolar until I went into treatment," she revealed in 2011.

Bipolar disorder is often a more severe side of depression, but you can get help by contacting these helplines

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Rene Russo

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Rene Russo

Like Lovato, Rene Russo also struggles with bipolar and depression and takes medication for them. “I’m not saying medication is right for everyone, but it was right for me,” she said on Good Morning America.

“Exercise and diet are important, but if you’re clinically depressed, then exercise is like taking a bucket [of water] and throwing it on a raging fire. But in conjunction, it’s great.”

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Michael Douglas

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Michael Douglas

Although some celebrities deal with mental health disorders, others deal with physical ones that still come with a heavy stigma. Back in 2010, Michael Douglas was diagnosed with stage 4 tongue and throat cancer, which he developed after contracting the HPV virus. Although not his proudest moment, his public admittance of the disease's root will likely help others get vaccinated early on in their sexual experience.

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Catherine Zeta-Jones

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Catherine Zeta-Jones

Meanwhile, Michael Douglas' wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, (along with many other celebrities) was struggling with bipolar disorder and depression.

Again, bipolar disorder is often a more severe side of depression, but you can get help by contacting these helplines

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Paula Deen

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Paula Deen

Paula Deen, the famous southern chef, spent years battling agoraphobia, a mental disorder that makes you afraid to leave the house. Back in 2007, she opened up about it in a New York Times expose. "Some days I could get to the supermarket, but I could never go too far inside. I learned to cook with the ingredients they kept close to the door."

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Emma Thompson

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Emma Thompson

The British actress, writer and producer said depression was always lurking around her, especially during her early years. However, working and writing helped bring her out of it. 

"The only thing I could do was write. I used to crawl from the bedroom to the computer and just sit and write, and then I was all right because I was not present. Sense and Sensibility really saved me from going under, I think, in a very nasty way," she told the Telegraph

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Hayden Panettiere

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Hayden Panettiere

Like Brooke Shields, Hayden Panettiere also suffered from postpartum depression and actually went to rehab for it, which is, unironically, what also happened to her character on Nashville

However, she's in full recovery now and thinks the best remedy is to talk openly about it. "You don’t realize how broad of a spectrum you can really experience [postpartum depression] on. It’s something that needs to be talked about. Women need to know that they’re not alone and that it does heal," she said on Live with Kelly and Michael.

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Jim Carrey

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Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey, like so many comedians, has struggled with an ebbing and flowing depression all of his life. He turned to comedy to make his mom happy because she was always ill. He says he's been on and off medication, but this isn't the case for everyone. Many find medication to be the only way.

"It may have helped me out of a jam for a little bit, but people stay on it forever. I had to get off at a certain point because I realized that, you know, everything's just OK," he told CBS News in 2009. "There are peaks; there are valleys. But they're all kind of carved and smoothed out, and it feels like a low level of despair you live in."

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Padma Lakshmi

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Padma Lakshmi

Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi was one of the first celebrities to be open about her endometriosis, a reproductive disorder that can often cause uterine and ovarian cysts and extreme pain around one's period.

Back in 2009, she started fundraising to raise endometriosis awareness. "I just thought I had a responsibility to let other young women know so they wouldn't have to go through what I went through," she says. "If you get tested at an early age, it's very simple to be treated for it, and it will save you from a lifetime of pain and stress," she told People

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Tom Hanks

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Tom Hanks

Back in 2013, Tom Hanks admitted he's had Type 2 diabetes since he was 36, though he didn't realize it that whole time. It just goes to show that diabetes is not reserved for only lazy or overweight people. There is a whole different side to the disease.

If you suspect you might have diabetes, you should get your blood and sugar levels checked out by your general practitioner as soon as possible. 

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Robin Roberts

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Robin Roberts

The Good Morning America anchor was hit with a major health scare back in 2012: She was diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). However, thankfully, after a bone marrow transplant, she's been on the road to recovery for the past few years and is now "the happiest and healthiest" she's ever been. 

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Brittany Snow

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Brittany Snow

Although the beloved Pitch Perfect star always looks sunny, she's been struggling with a not-so-sunny condition for many years now. Snow developed anorexia back when she was on Guiding Light when she was only 12. She said at first she started eating less to get compliments from her co-stars, and the whole situation spiraled from there. However, in 2003, her family got her the help she needed, and now she sees a therapist regularly to help her manage any negative thoughts she might have about her body. 

If you or someone you know struggles with anorexia, you can find help online here

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Carrie Fisher

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Carrie Fisher

The late Star Wars legend Carrie Fisher dealt with manic depression, anxiety and alcoholism all of her life, so much so she wrote a book (and subsequent movie) about it. Dealing with her issues in the public light helped her stay on track, even though she recognized her problems may never completely leave her. 

“I outlasted my problems,” she once told ABC news. “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that. I’m still surviving it. But bring it on. Better me than you.”

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