Trauma is an unseen wound, often masked by smiles, laughter, and the daily grind. A commonly used but misunderstood term, trauma refers to someone’s psychological response to extremely distressing events that shatter their sense of safety and control. It’s normal to experience a range of symptoms after a traumatic event, such as intrusive memories, emotional numbness, and heightened irritability. But when the response persists, it can develop into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
As a Yale-trained psychiatrist and the founder of a trauma & PTSD startup, I've witnessed firsthand the transformative power of specialized trauma therapy. Celebrities, despite their public lives, are not exempt from trauma's grasp. Their candor about their healing journey has paved the way for wider understanding of PTSD and its treatment options. Here are eight celebrities who have opened up about their healing journey after trauma and the therapies they've turned to:
1. Lady Gaga
- Background: At age 19, Lady Gaga experienced a sexual assault incident that deeply affected her, resulting in multiple hospitalizations for chronic pain and mental anguish. Gaga's narrative underscores the complexities of PTSD symptoms, which can manifest in both mental and physical symptoms.
- Path to Healing: Partnering with her psychiatrist Dr. Paul Conti, Gaga began a journey of introspection through talk therapy and medications, ultimately co-authoring the poignant book “Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic.” Through her revelations, she not only found personal catharsis but also shed light on trauma’s multifaceted nature.
2. Jason Kander
- Background: As a former Missouri Senate candidate, Jason Kander showcased political prowess and dedication. Yet beneath this exterior, he wrestled with the haunting memories of his deployment in Afghanistan.
- Path to Healing: Confronting his demons, Kander famously left his Senate candidate race to seek treatment for PTSD using two therapies: Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). Both therapies are first-line treatments recommended by the National Center for PTSD. These methodologies, rooted in confronting and reprocessing traumatic memories, facilitated Kander's journey from torment to tranquility, which was featured in the 2023 award-winning documentary, HERE. IS. BETTER.
3. Dorit Kemsley
- Background: Life took a harrowing turn for The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star when she was robbed at gunpoint by multiple intruders in her Encino Hills home. The traumatic incident, while Dorit and her children were asleep as intruders invaded their home, left a shadow over Dorit's sense of security and culminated in a PTSD diagnosis.
- Path to Healing: Dorit found solace in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a therapy centered around processing distressing memories by diverting attention through guided eye movements. Her courage led her to film an EMDR session, offering an insightful window into the therapy's transformative potential.
4. Jaime Lowe
- Background: Acclaimed writer Jaime Lowe's story is a painful tapestry of violation and resilience. At the age of 13, she endured a devastating sexual assault, the effects of which reverberated through the subsequent decades of her life.
- Path to Healing: Turning to Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Jaime began deconstructing her traumatic memories. She courageously recorded her CPT therapy sessions for popular NPR show This American Life in a project entitled Ten Sessions. In just 10 sessions of trauma therapy, Jaime learned to redefine her experience, transitioning from incapacitation to empowerment.
5. Ariana Grande
- Background: Pop sensation Ariana Grande faced unimaginable horror when a suicide bomber attacked her concert in Manchester, UK, claiming 22 innocent lives. This tragedy's aftermath manifested physically, with brain scans revealing the tangible impact PTSD had on Grande's brain.
- Path to Healing: Recognizing the importance of mental health, Grande turned to therapy. She once profoundly remarked, "therapy saved my life." This commitment extends beyond her personal realm, as she also started a generous $2 million initiative to offer free therapy to her fans.
6. Darrell Hammond
- Background: While many recognize him for his comedic brilliance on Saturday Night Live, Darrell Hammond's past holds a painful history of childhood abuse, leading to a later diagnosis of complex PTSD.
- Path to Healing: Hammond found solace in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), an approach centered around changing maladaptive thinking patterns. His journey through the darkness is detailed in his documentary, Cracked Up, underscoring therapy's transformative potential.
7. Prince Harry
- Background: The globally admired Duke of Sussex carries the profound weight of losing his mother, Princess Diana, at a young age. This trauma, intertwined with the constant scrutiny and expectations of royal lineage, planted the seeds of PTSD for Prince Harry.
- Path to Healing: Embracing EMDR therapy, Prince Harry embarked on a healing odyssey, processing deeply embedded memories and mitigating their haunting influence. His public endorsement illuminated the therapeutic technique for countless individuals worldwide.
8. Gabrielle Union
- Background: Gabrielle Union's poignant journey through trauma follows a brutal sexual assault. The echoes of this experience shaped her life, inflicting wounds both seen and unseen.
- Path to Healing: Union dedicated years to talk therapy, focusing on recovery's nuances and intricacies. Although not a specialized trauma therapy, the sessions allowed Union to untangle her emotions and embark on a deliberate path to healing.
The stories of these celebrities illuminate the resilience of the human spirit. Their tales, marked by anguish and redemption, serve as a powerful reminder: trauma can be a chapter, not the entirety, of one's story. Through evidence-based therapies and unwavering support, recovery is possible.