Known worldwide as the Queen of Pop, Madonna Louise Ciccone rose to fame in 1984 with the release of her second album “Like a Virgin.” In her now iconic look of fishnet stockings, lace tops, skirts over capri pants, big crucifix necklaces, and bleached hair, Madonna instantly became a global star. “Like a Virgin” became the first-ever album by a female artist to sell over five million copies in the United States.
With the release of other hit songs like “Material Girl,” “Angel,” “Dress You Up” and “Papa Don’t Preach,” Madonna cemented her place in musical history. She literally invented the category of a female pop star, setting the stage for future pop icons like Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga. With her revolutionary and open outlook on sexual content, Madonna drew the ire of the conservative sections of society. Nevertheless, she was trailblazing in her use of suggestive lyrics, sexualized music videos, and a devil-may-care attitude towards public nudity and sex.
Her music led the way for young women and other marginalized groups to take control of their bodies and explore their sexuality without shame. It’s no wonder that Madonna has always been considered a feminist and LGBTQI icon.
What Madonna Has Said About her Mental Health
Madonna has never publicly spoken about being diagnosed with a mental health disorder, nor has she ever admitted to suffering from sustained drug addiction. Fans and media, however, have always speculated that her erratic behavior is driven by drugs. Nearly every few months, a fresh news report is published with a ghoulish headline, such as “Is Madonna ok?” or “Is Madonna on drugs?”
While concern for a beloved pop icon’s health or appearance might be well-meaning, often such curiosity is rooted in sexism, misogyny, and an utter lack of compassion. As people who are not involved in her life, we have no idea what she might or might not be going through and to speculate about her choices doesn’t mean it’s true.
Among what little she has said about being on drugs, Madonna admitted in 2014 that she has “tried everything once.” She added that she did not particularly enjoy doing drugs, and that “as soon as I was high, I spent my time drinking tons of water to get it out of my system. As soon as I was high, I was obsessed with flushing it out of me. I was like, ‘Okay, I’m done now.'”
Similarly, Madonna’s risque behavior has often been ascribed to mental health conditions like schizophrenia or Boderline Personality Disorder by fans, for which there is no evidence in the public realm. Twitter and TikTok routinely explode with content calling Madonna “crazy” or a “nut job.” But is there any evidence of her actually suffering from a mental disorder? No. At best, she admitted in a 2019 interview to feeling “a little depressed” after moving to Portugal. Even this cannot be construed to be a medically diagnosed mental health condition.
How Stresses Mental Health
The fact is that mental health struggles and substance abuse are extremely common when fame is involved. Many celebrities who are exceptionally talented actors, writers, and singers actually struggle with issues that often cause very public ‘meltdowns’ and ‘breakdowns’.
Fame itself contributes to the scrutiny that celebrities have to face in their professional and personal lives and it makes the experience of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse even more traumatic.
Adele, for example, has spoken openly about going through postpartum depression and how hard it was to open up about it. “I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son, and it frightened me. I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I was very reluctant…” she said. Similarly, Demi Lovato, who suffers from bipolar disorder, bulimia, and substance addiction, has spoken about how she didn’t think she would live to age 21.
Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who played Harry Potter in the eponymous franchise admits to having been a heavy drinker during the filming of the last three films. Matthew Perry, who played Chandler on the enormously popular sitcom Friends, struggled with alcohol and prescription drug addiction for years before choosing a path of recovery.
Britney Spears has perhaps borne the severest brunt of the media scrutiny that followed her international fame and her very public breakdown in 2007-2008, after which she checked into rehab several times over the last few years.
No doubt then that fame and mental health issues go somewhat hand in hand and are often trivialized and minimized in public discourse. The public interest and reporting around Madonna’s life reflect a similar fixation of mental health struggles and addiction without actually respecting the pop star’s desire to share any details about it.
What Madonna Has Said About Her Struggles
What is interesting is the range of issues that people think Madonna allegedly suffers from. From alcohol and drug addiction to depression and bipolar disorder, Madonna’s erratic and somewhat attention-seeking antics have often been written off as the actions of a narcissistic or emotionally damaged person.
In reality, Madonna has always been outspoken about her personal life and the traumatic events that have shaped her everyday reality. Her divorce from Guy Ritchie and the ugly custody battle that followed have often been touched upon by the pop star in her public concerts. These events and others like them have routinely been shaped by tabloid media as crises of mental health and breakdowns when in reality they are nothing more than artistic and vulnerable expressions of Madonna’s lived reality.
Her recent indulgence in the formidable skills of plastic surgeons to enhance her physical beauty has similarly come under intense scrutiny, leading her fans to conclude that she was suffering from a mental condition or an intense alcohol or drug addiction. Neither of these claims can be supported by any medical evidence.
In the world of professional make-believe, it is hard to figure out what is real and what is an act. In Madonna’s case as well it is hard to deduce what is true and what is part of a well-crafted act. The material girl certainly knows how to create an image and it sometimes seems like the singer perpetuates the idea of her being an avid drug user. As recently as 2021, the sixty-four-year-old boasted about using drugs at home, admitting that “I like opiates.”
For fans, it can be hard to separate truth from fiction. The important thing to remember is that while it might be easy for celebrities to use drugs as a tool to increase their popularity, the risks and dangers of indulging in casual drug abuse are real.
Drug use is known to cause issues such as anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, confusion, aggression, nausea, brain damage, and depression. Regular drug use is obviously highly addictive and can turn your life upside down. Though drug use might appear to be cool and attractive on the silver screen and on tabloid pages, its effects are stressful and take years of hard work to overcome.
If you believe you may be suffering from a mental health illness or a substance addiction, contact us at FHE to find out more about our programs. You can talk to our mental health counselors who can get you started on the path to recovery.