Stressing and Acting Out

Miller says that many of the stresses put on young stars would start out as acute -- that is, they would come in the form of short bursts of stress.

If whatever is causing the stress is eliminated, it is likely that the individual will rebound and return to normal psychological and emotional health.

But the glare of the spotlight can take a more severe toll if it is sustained.

"Then the child will continue to experience the effects of stress," he says. "How they cope with the strong feeling that comes with it can lead to other behaviors that are problematic.

"It's a tough business; it is very hard to compete and succeed in show business. If you put together all of these risk factors, it is easy to see how these kids have been socialized into a different kind of lifestyle."

Stardom Does Not Always Lead to Rehab

But while some celebrities appear to have succumbed to the pressure of their fame, others seem to thrive both during and after their time in the spotlight.

"Not all of these kids crack," Miller says. "Not all of them engage in this self-destructive behavior. Only some do."

One example of this principle is Mayim Bialik, star of the early 1990s sitcom "Blossom," who is now completing her doctorate in neuroscience at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Danica McKellar, who played the character Winnie on the hit TV series "The Wonder Years," also attended UCLA to pursue studies in mathematics. And though she eventually decided to return to acting, a physics theorem now bears her name.

"Nothing in these experiences is preordained," Miller says. "It's case by case, and a constellation of risk factors put together over time defines the outcome."

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