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Professional actors face increased risk of harming their mental health

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Posted July 21, 2016

Having multiple personalities is a mental disorder. Unless, of course, you are an actor and have to be able to create and manage different characters. A good actor really has to live like the personality he is pretending to be in order to convince the viewers. A new study from the University of Adelaide revealed that actors are very vulnerable to mental health problems.

Being an actor is associated with glamour, but it is actually very stressful and can significantly damage one’s mental health. Image credit: ASCOM Prefeitura de Votuporanga via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Being an actor is associated with glamour, but it is actually very stressful and can significantly damage one’s mental health. Image credit: ASCOM Prefeitura de Votuporanga via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

How do professional actors transform themselves to be someone else for a couple of hours always intrigued scientists. Not only they have to accept a new personality, but they also have to remember it and repeat it again when time comes. Scientists wanted to see if that affects mental wellbeing of an actor and therefore conducted a study, involving 20 Australian professional actors. However, firstly it is very important to note that a lot of positive effects can be attributed to the art of acting – sense of personal growth and purpose. In fact, many actors cannot imagine themselves doing anything else and thus really put a lot of efforts into their craft.

Interviews with the participants showed that actors are highly vulnerable to depression and symptoms of anxiety. Alison Robb, lead author of the study, explained: “Their mental wellbeing is threatened in a range of ways, such as: a lack of autonomy in their profession, lack of control over their employment and general working environment, complex interpersonal relationships, a high level of self-criticism, a high level of criticism by family and friends for their choice of profession, and a heavy drinking culture”. However, some of the dangers are directly related to the art they are creating – some actors said that sometimes it is difficult to switch off the role they are playing.

Furthermore, actors reported having nightmares and intrusive thoughts related to the roles they are playing. And there is always the stress about the stability of the career as many actors have to wait for quite some time for a new work to appear. Being unsuccessful with a new role also has negative implications on the person’s mental health, even though it is considered to be a normal part of the process.

Scientists say that these findings should be taken into consideration by both actors and psychologists. Research showed that actors are unlikely to seek for help when they are having problems with mental health. They should know that there are ways to help them. And psychologists should find tailored methods to reach out to actors.

Source: adelaide.edu.au

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