We have known him since he was just 12 years old as the adorable Harry Potter. Since then, British actor Daniel Radcliffe has grown in fame as one of the highest-paid Hollywood stars. At the same time, Radcliffe has had his share of struggles to overcome, including a mental health disorder and an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
In 2012, Radcliffe told the British tabloid The Sun that at the age of 5 he developed obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by time-consuming obsessions and/or compulsions.
The obsessions are bothersome and persistent thoughts that the person tries to ignore or suppress. Compulsions include repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the person feels compelled to do, like following rigid rules. This response to an obsession is a way to reduce anxiety or prevent a perceived dreaded situation. However, the compulsions are excessive, and the person is aware that they are irrational.
Radcliffe stated that with every sentence he spoke, he had to repeat it to himself and would do so under his breath. He sought out therapy when the OCD got so bad that it would take him 5 minutes simply to turn off a light.
OCD is one of the most debilitating disorders, but the good news is studies have shown that it can be treated and managed with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication. CBT is a common and empirically supported treatment modality for many mental health disorders.
CBT involves examining how your emotions are linked to your thoughts and how thought processes or behaviors can be altered to help alleviate distress. Radcliffe shared that therapy has been very helpful for him in dealing with OCD.
Being in the public eye, Radcliffe said he felt heavily watched and scrutinized. In 2019, he shared during an interview on Off Camera with Sam Jones that he felt as though he was expected to be happy all the time given his success and fortune.
If he felt a normal human emotion such as sadness, he thought, “Does that mean I’m doing this wrong? Does that mean I’m not good at being famous?”
Radcliffe coped with the stress and self-doubt by heavily drinking alcohol beginning in his teenage years. For him, getting drunk was an easy way to forget that he was in the public eye.
Unfortunately, his excessive drinking led to paranoia about being watched even more, which caused him to drink even more, and so on, perpetuating heavy alcohol use. He often blacked out and could not remember anything about the night before.
Reaching out to people in his life was the first important step that Radcliffe took toward recovery. Though he hasn’t provided much detail about what his treatment entailed, he said it took a few years and a couple of attempts.
Relapse is quite common for people struggling with an AUD. Research has shown that the likelihood of relapse is related to individual factors such as the severity of the AUD, use of other substances, overall health, having a mental health disorder, and a person's level of social support.
Factors that may help protect against relapse include a supportive social network, self-efficacy (the belief that you can recover), and having purpose and meaning in life. Radcliffe has shared that he feels very lucky that he loves his work despite the challenges, and that he has family and friends who care about him.
Radcliffe also shared with Sam Jones that he believed that being a movie star meant that he had to be someone “cool” who parties and drinks. Whether they are accurate or not, perceptions significantly impact our attitudes and behavior, including those related to substance use. In particular, most college students do not drink heavily; however, students tend to overestimate their peers' drinking. This leads a minority of students to drink heavily.
Radcliffe later realized that he does not have to conform to his preconceived notion of what a movie star is like and that it is more important for him to be true to himself.
Now 31 years old, Radcliffe has been sober for about 7 years and has said that he doesn’t miss alcohol. To help himself stay sober, he shared that he exercises and has gotten back into reading, something he used to love to do early in his life.
One study of males who had AUDs found that they could maintain sobriety for at least a year by engaging in productive activities, building a supportive social network, and monitoring their attitudes on substances.
Radcliffe is an example of how someone who struggles with an AUD or mental health disorder can recover with support and treatment and continue to live a satisfying and meaningful life.
At Indiana Center for Recovery, we understand the struggles of mental health and substance use disorders. We acknowledge that recovery is a process and that each person has their own path toward recovery.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or mental health conditions, we are here to help. Call us today at (844) 650-0064.