When I was a kid, my siblings and I watched a lot of TV, probably too much. Before video killed the radio star, we watched pop bands perform on a show called American Bandstand and others like it (Does Solid Gold ring a bell for anyone?). One of the bands we saw several times was a group of brothers called The Osmonds. The youngest boy in the family, Donny Osmond, was almost always featured. He sang songs like One Bad Apple and Puppy Love that made preteen girls swoon en masse. In the late 70’s he and his sister, Marie, co-hosted the Donny and Marie Show, maybe one of the last variety shows, complete with jokes, a few skits, and Donny-and-Marie music.
Donny was the consummate performer. He had a winning smile and an easy stage presence, first demonstrated when he performed at the age of five. One would think that he would be the last to suffer from social anxiety. But we have learned that this simply wasn’t true.
He shared in recent years, following the ebbs and flows of his long career, that he has suffered from intense social anxiety since his youth. He described the intense fear of being judged by others and the panic attacks that plagued him as a result before and sometimes during performances. Celebrities are often reluctant to report anything that might be perceived as a weakness, but this performer has courageously worked through his anxiety in a very public forum. And he is not the only one who has suffered in the spotlight.
After being diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder, Donny was helped dramatically by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. He wrote about his struggles in his book, “Life Is What You Make It” and for a PBS documentary, “Afraid of People.” He has since joined as an honorary member the Board of Directors of an organization I also belong to called the ADAA, whose mission is to “promote the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depression, and stress-related disorders through education, practice, and research.” Donny has repeatedly encouraged others to seek help.
“I’ve talked with so many people who were unwilling to do anything about their anxiety disorder because they were too embarrassed…I want to let people know that they are not alone and that help is available.”
I couldn’t agree more.