What Makes a Star Fall?

In another incident, Jason Wahler, star of MTV's reality show "The Hills," served time in jail early this year after several drinking-related charges -- including assault -- that he accrued after his stint on on the show, according to People magazine. Wahler also spent time in a rehab facility.

Perhaps the most famous of the reality-show-gone-bad crowd is Richard Hatch, who won $1 million on "Survivor" and is now serving time in federal prison for failing to pay taxes on the $327,000 he earned as co-host of a Boston radio show and $28,000 in rent on property he owned.

The cases may all be part of the fall from grace that occurs after sudden fame, according to psychologists who specialize in issues facing people in the public spotlight.

The 'Idol' Factor

The stark differences between life on the "American Idol" set, where hairdressers and producers seemingly take care of the contestants down to their false eyelashes, to life back in a contestant's hometown, where, after a few months the novelty of celebrity wears off and attention fades, can take a toll on contestants.

"We're so preoccupied with trying to provide entertainment that we don't realize that these people have lives after our attention is gone," said Stuart Fischoff, a psychologist and senior editor of the Journal of Media Psychology. "When you take the person out of the [spotlight] it's like all of a sudden someone just turned off all the music and lights and you went from a Technicolor environment to a black and white world."

"This is why people collapse and get eaten up by Hollywood," Fischoff told ABCNEWS.com. "They all experience the same kind of transition collapse."

The pressures that come with appearing on the show certainly could have contributed to her woes, Fischoff said.

"Fame is funny because once you get it you don't want it to go away, but sometimes it does and nobody prepares you for that," said Robert Butterworth, a psychologist and president of Contemporary Psychology Associates. "And when you don't have fame, you start acting crazy. [Sierra] is someone who got attention and then it left."

Possible Safeguards for Future Idols

With the change of environment between reality shows like "American Idol" and the real world so vast, some psychologists suggest that programs should begin to recognize the negative effects on young people, and encourage mentorlike assistance.

"One problem with any of these kinds of shows is that they change people's lives and then walk away from them," said Fischoff, who described life after stardom as a "psychological minefield." "They don't assign someone to watch them for the next six months to see if you're going to screw up because of the celebrity that came while they were on the show."

"So what they can do is give them some information about what they can anticipate after the show," Fischoff said. "Say, 'Here's a person to call if you're confused and afraid and you don't know what to do.' Give them a guidance counselor, a mentor."

"What [stars like Sierra] have now is an uncertain future," he added. "What she had after 'American Idol' was the possibility her life could have turned in some fantastic direction. That becomes a very anxiety-driven situation."

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