Does Entitlement Contribute to Addiction in Childhood Actors?

March 13th, 2010 | Posted by Sherry Gaba in Addiction | Drug Addiction

My goal this week was to get away from the topic of Celebrity addiction, but, of course, you couldn’t turn on the television without some newscaster broadcasting about the tragic and sudden death of teenage heartthrob and childhood star Corey Haim. Most likely the cause is related to drug addiction although the reports are unclear. Is this yet another tragic death related to the high rate of celebrity addicts? Is it another death related to the high rate of tragic deaths of childhood actors? Or is it because, like many, he was raised by parents that lived off his income and had their own long lost desire to be famous while thrusting the limelight on their child for their own satisfaction? Was it because he couldn’t cope with his fame ending at such at a young age never to be duplicated as an adult? Is it because the euphoria of being famous at such a young age can only be met by replacing those intense feelings with drugs or alcohol? Did he have the genetic disposition to become an addict or alcoholic? Was it his intense drive to succeed in an industry full of enablers and not having to play by the rules that most of us do have to play by?

All of this is just speculation, of course. Perhaps it is none of these things that brought Corey down, but the statistics are alarming as to how many child actors do fall victim to alcoholism and drug addiction. Shall I start naming them? Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Spears, Robert Downey Jr., Brittany Murphy, River Phoenix, Dana Plato, Tatum O’Neal, or Andrew Koenig. And these are just a few. However, fortunately, there are those who found sobriety before it was too late such as Drew Barrymore and Mackenzie Phillips or others who have struggled on and off for years with chronic relapses such as Danny Bonaduce.

When will all of these senseless deaths end? The few celebrity child actors I have treated were mostly brought to my office through the desperate attempts to get them sober by someone they love. These family members or friends are mostly the ones that make the call to get them the desperate help they need. This is usually no different than most addicts and alcoholics I work with. However, often as soon as I set boundaries with them, I never see them again. When I tell them they must give me the standard 24 hours notice to cancel and I hold them to it when they don’t show up, they disappear as quickly as they arrived. They are so used to being catered to and when someone actually says “No” to them, they flee. This is sad because there will always be another doctor or psychotherapist that will say “yes” and not hold them accountable for their actions. This is one of the reasons that perhaps they can’t stay sober. Sobriety is not a place where the strung out addict or alcoholic should make the rules. They need the direction of someone who has either been down that road or a professional that can clearly set appropriate boundaries. Most child actors have had to handle responsibilities at a young age whereby they clearly were not emotionally or developmentally ready to handle. Maybe this is why they also become so rebellious defying all the rules later in life. Also, they most likely did not get their attachment needs met according to a study by the Department of Psychology at Wayne State University. The study reports parents of child performers, who were heavily involved in their children’s careers, tended to be “less caring and more over controlling.” Perhaps their entitlement comes from the need to be in control because they were so heavily controlled at a young age. Or maybe their addictions stem from a traumatic childhood, similar to non-childhood actors, where they always felt abandoned. Perhaps a professional psychotherapist, who actually set limits, is too scary for a child star because it actually represents caring to them. Maybe the only time they felt cared for was when they were on stage or in front of a camera.

Regardless, all of this is speculation, but I do believe children actors need to not be treated like “little adults.” They need to get their developmental needs met like any other child. They need healthy peer relationship and not to be handed over everything they ask for. They need healthy role models and stable families just like anyone else to teach them to live life on life’s terms. There is no guarantee they won’t develop an addiction, but at least it’s a good start.

Sherry Gaba is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach in Agoura, CA. She specializes in addictions, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and helping her clients find their purpose. She is a contributing author to “The Conscious Entrepreneur” and is the Life Coach on Celebrity Rehab 2 and 3 on VH1 with Dr. Drew Pinsky. She can be reached at [email protected] or Her new book comes out this September 2010 for Recovery Month on having a purposeful recovery.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 Both comments and pings are currently closed.

36 Responses

  • Andrea Grant says:

    You can reach Sherry Gaba at [email protected] or

  • This is a topic that is near to my heart… Best wishes! Where are your contact
    details though?

  • Good – I should definitely pronounce, impressed with your web site. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs as well as related information ended up being truly simple to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least. Quite unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or something, web site theme . a tones way for your client to communicate. Nice task.

  • Heya, I was reading a different concern about this on one more blog a few minutes ago only. Fascinating point of view you have in contrast to the other one I read earlier but hey, it is your opinion after all. – And I’m leaning much more in the direction of yours, lolz. =))

  • “Have you ever considered adding more videos to your weblog posts to keep the readers much more entertained? I mean I just read through the entire article of yours and it was quite good but since I am far more of a visual learner,I found that to become more helpful. Just my my idea, Excellent luck “

  • Sexy Chick says:

    Lindsay Lohan really is a fantastic demonstration of everything wrong in America now. I definitely cannot fathom why she would get so much blog attention.

  • I’m happy someone decided to finally shed light on this. I have pondered it frequently. 🙂

  • I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business.

  • Hi, admin, I like your blog, but how can I subscribe to the blog itself?

  • Ok…Lets talk about Marijuana impacting a marriage. I have a problem where my husband and I have had numerous problems with marijuanna and betrayal all together. I cant trust him, he knows I cant, and doesnt do anything to change that. We used to smoke weed together. When I got pregnant with our first kid we said we would quit smoking. Since then I have been on and off cause I catch him doing it and he convinces me that i cant CHANGE him and that he wants to smoke. So after so much fighting… I end up doing it with him and his friends.

  • I’m onto day two. again. Yesterday was good at first, but then partner and I had a disagreement during the night, I’m so depressed now, I know I don’t want any weed, I really don’t, but wish that I could get out of my head, I can’t shut it up, it hurts.

  • I’m just a teenager in highschool but i know im an alcoholic… been having alot of issues with friends, in one instance it was even over me being an “alcoholic”… i drink anything i can find as my parents dont drink so there is rarly any around- alcoholism runs through both sides of my family including my dad which is why he no longer drinks at all… i drink any and everything i can and its almost always alone.. i just dont see the issue with it…. leaving myself sober and open minded alone on a friday night is much more detremental to myself… i wouldnt be doing anything anyways but making myself depressed…alcohol is an escape from my severe anxiety

  • Today is only Day 5, but yesterday was hard. The first four days I felt pretty good and a sense of relief. I felt I was making the right choice to give up pot but somehow without pot and alcohol life just seems grey. I used to look forward to smoking pot and really enjoyed it. Ironically, I don’t feel a whole lot different without it – I think I had built up so much tolerance I wasn’t really getting that high, but without it I am more anxious and irritable. Unmotivated. I just hope today is easier.

  • I am 33 & have been smoking daily since i was 16. Over the years i gave up for 1 year only but started again (stupidly). Had a bit of a rough time through teens & when i was 23 had an ectopic pregnancy which resulted in losing the baby & 1 of my tubes. from there I found out I wouldn’t be able to have children naturally, smoking has put these things to the back of my mind which was great short term but long term i have ran away & never faced up to these things.

  • After twenty years or so smoking cigs and weed, I have decided to quit both. For difficult times such as after mealtimes, I am considering electronic cigarettes to aid this process.

  • Hi, Ive always enjoyed a drink, about a year ago me and my 5 year girlfriend went our different ways, I was a real mess for months, scared of meeting somene new and getting close, not wanting to get hurt. Eventually I met someone new, I was happy, she was happy. She fell pregnant and to start with it was a scary idea but we both got used to the idea. A few weeks later she tells me she doesnt want me or the baby. We broke up and I just lost interest in being around people, fed up of getting hurt.

  • im on day 3 of the most difficult journey of my life so far and was looking for a little help along the way found this site . just reading that there are people out their in a similar situation to me but just that little bit further on gives me the strength to carry on.

  • Just wanna commentabout this article, after reading whole of this it make me to have new thinking about one important event, hope I can read more good news again from you so I bookmark your website.

  • I can see that you are an expert in this area. I am starting a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business.

  • robert downey jr is so gorgeous! i love all of his movies!

  • Good share,you article very great, very usefull for us…thank you

  • I truly love reading your information…thanks

  • Hi,good article,thanks for your share! and I wonder if i can quote this post in my site if I put a link back to yours? Waiting for your answer!

  • How did things today make you feel?

  • Issac Maez says:

    When I use my search engine to look for blogs to read yours has come up several times on different categories. That just made me want to read it more, I can see why. It is excellent. Keep up the awesome work and I will continue reading.

  • so useful.hehe.thanks for your share.

  • great experience, dude! thanks for this great post wow… it’s very wonderful report.

  • I wish more people would write blogs like this that are actually fun to read. With all the fluff floating around on the net, it is rare to read a blog like yours instead.

  • Very Interesting. I haven’t had the same experience here in Russia, but I guess that isn’t really too hard to imagine.

  • I turn up this article from google,it’s really helpful in spite of me,I honest converge these infomation.I have subscribe the newsletter,do these articles bear copyright limit? can I post them in my blog?

  • Sherry Gaba says:

    You are so correct. Without boundaries, everything goes, including feeling entitled in every area of one’s life. Thank you so much for that comment and enjoying the blog.

  • justelise says:

    I loved your article. I think the sense of entitlement is an offshoot of the lack of boundaries in general, which is really the root cause. Child actors with parasitic parents are usually the children who never had boundaries. If your parents want you to stay happy (by any means necessary) so you will continue to earn their dinner, they’re not going to establish boundaries, because said boundaries will inevitably result in the child getting angry with the parent, and could result in the loss of the parent’s meal ticket.

  • Sherry Gaba says:

    I am so glad you enjoyed my blog. More to come Addiction Dude 🙂

  • This is a worth while read, thank you for sharing. Alcoholism is not a problem that’s going away at any time soon.