The Stresses of Stardom

ByABC News
August 2, 2001, 2:08 PM

Aug. 3, 2001 — -- Stardom can be great. You get to go to all the best parties. You can pick and choose your work. And you can fly off to Paris on a whim without a financial care in the world.

But it can eat at you, too. There are expectations to meet, death threats, isolation, fear of failure on a public stage and perhaps too-easy access to drugs and alcohol.

"Show business is no place for sissies," says Stuart Fischoff, a professor of media psychology at California State University in Los Angeles. "It's a known stress business. It looks magical from the outside.

"To be a performer is not just to be on stage or in a recording booth, but to be performing 24 hours a day," Fischoff adds. "It's like being in wartime, where your adrenaline is pumping 24 hours a day. It's not surprising that someone like that will break down. It's surprising it doesn't happen to more of them."

By some accounts, the dark side of stardom may have contributed to the falls of stars from Marilyn Monroe to Kurt Cobain to Freddie Prinze. And as Mariah Carey's "emotional and physical breakdown" suggests, the focus on the stars can still be intense.

"You know what, they're human," says Lilli Friedland, a Los Angeles psychologist. "In fact, sometimes because they live in such a goldfish bowl, it's more difficult for them. It's not like they can always take a timeout without everybody talking about them and looking at them."

While few details have emerged about Carey's "breakdown" as acknowledged Wednesday by her publicist, Cindi Berger observers suggest pressures on the pop star have been intensifying.

Carey, 31, was admitted to an undisclosed New York-area hospital on July 25, as she was poised to headline MTV's 20th anniversary show, and as release dates approached for a new album on a new record label, and two movies featuring her as an actress. For the time being, Carey has canceled all public appearances.

"Mariah Carey's known as a workaholic and a perfectionist," said Sarah Saffian, a contributor to Us Weekly magazine's cover story on Carey. "This seems to be the peak of that. She's never worked quite so hard before.