20 Celebs Sharing Their Health Issues to End Stigma

by Ally Hirschlag
Feb 22, 2018 at 4:13 p.m. ET

While it's true that all celebrities deserve privacy and respect from the public, it's also true that being famous comes with a unique platform — a platform that allows celebs to speak up and actually be heard by huge groups of people.

Not all celebs choose to use this platform — and that's totally cool — but others use theirs to bring awareness to serious health issues that might not necessarily get the press they deserve. Whether it's Lyme disease, endometriosis, lupus or mental health issues, by sharing their issues, celebrities are helping to make thousands of people feel less alone. Raising awareness can also prompt people to talk to their doctors about nagging pains they hadn't considered as possible symptoms or generate interest and funding for further medical research.

Whatever their reason for stepping forward, we're grateful. These are the stars bravely bringing awareness to illnesses from which they suffer to help others.

A version of this article was originally published in April 2016. 

1 /21: Julianne Hough

1/21 :Julianne Hough

Hough was 20 years old when she was first diagnosed with endometriosis, which had been giving her painful periods for as long as she could remember. She first heard about the disease from her roommate when she was 18. "“This is a terrible thing to say, but as an 18-year-old, I was like, ‘She’s just dramatic. I have those same things. That’s just you having your period," Hough said.

Now she wants to raise awareness about the disease so people suffering and those who love them can educate themselves. She partnered with #SpeakEndo to get the conversation going.  “The more you know, the more you can do things to either help or prevent, and the earlier you can catch it, the better," Hough said. "I’ve learned things through having endometriosis that maybe I never would’ve found out if I was trying to have kid. It could’ve been really difficult for me with having miscarriages. Now I have knowledge, and now I can actually prepare and hopefully not be let down when otherwise I could’ve been very badly.”

2 /21: Prince Harry

2/21 :Prince Harry

Prince Harry is a handsome royal, but his life has been far from perfect. 

Harry candidly spoke about his mental health issues that resulted from the stress of dealing with the death of his other, Princess Diana, in a very public manner when he was just 12 years old.

"I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12 and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but also my work as well," he told The Telegraph in a podcast interview.

Harry also revealed that he had "very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions" and sought professional mental health help at the urging of his brother, Prince William.

Harry's interview with The Telegraph was part of the Heads Together initiative, which is jointly coordinated by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Harry with the aim to end stigma surrounding mental health.

3 /21: Lady Gaga

3/21 :Lady Gaga

In late November of 2016, Lady Gaga revealed during a visit to the Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBT youth in New York that she has suffered from PTSD since being sexually assaulted as a teenager.

"I told the kids today that I suffer from a mental illness," Lady Gaga said in a later Today show interview. "I suffer from PTSD. I’ve never told anyone that before, so here we are. But the kindness that’s shown to me by doctors as well as my family and my friends, it’s really saved my life."

"It’s really important to remind kids who are suffering from a traumatic experience or from abandonment, to remind them that they’re not alone and that they’re loved," Gaga added. "We are in this together."

For more information on PTSD, see Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Basics from The National Institute of Mental Health.

4 /21: Selena Gomez

4/21 :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."

5/21 :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. 

6 /21: Cara Delevingne

6/21 :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

7 /21: Brooke Shields

7/21 :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.

8 /21: Michael J. Fox

8/21 :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.

9/21 :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

10/21 :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.”

11 /21: Michael Douglas

11/21 :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.

12 /21: Catherine Zeta-Jones

12/21 :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

13/21 :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."

14/21 :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

15 /21: Hayden Panettiere

15/21 :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.

16/21 :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."

17/21 :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

18/21 :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. 

19 /21: Robin Roberts

19/21 :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. 

20 /21: Brittany Snow

20/21 :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

21 /21: Carrie Fisher

21/21 :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.”