Sheridan Smith, the popular BAFTA winning actress who found herself in the spotlight after starring in such cult British TV programmes like Gavin & Stacey and a Pint of Lager and a Packet of Crisps has found herself in the midst of a twitter frenzy.

The actresses’ father was recently diagnosed with cancer and whilst Sheridan was due to be performing in the West end version of Barbara Streisand’s epic Funny Girl, Sheridan has taken leave from the show for up to 4 weeks. Sheridan has also been accused by some theatre-goers and the press as having performed whilst drunk on stage. No doubt these events have caused Sheridan to experience backlash from both the public and the press which culminated in to a not so unusual (at least for the realms of celebrity) twitter meltdown in which Sheridan hit back at her critics before deleting.

But what caused this very public breakdown and the subsequent hiatus from her hotly anticipated West End show? Whilst her father is suffering from cancer it seems the public have not been too sympathetic to Sheridan’s plight. Whilst the producers are adamant it is a break due to stress and exhaustion, this could possibly be not too far from the truth.
Stress is so often overlooked when people think about illness and more often than not is looked upon scathingly by outsiders. However stress can have behavioural implications such as poor work relations and feelings of loneliness as well as emotional cues like irritability and frustration and can quickly escalate to physiological conditions such as multiple personality disorder or anxiety disorders. All of which could explain Sheridan’s very public breakdown. Despite the clearly traumatizing effects of cancer and the profound impact that this horrible disease has on the family and friends of sufferers, it could be that such stress is particularly poignant for certain personality types. Whilst it is quite well known that ‘type A’ personalities (those who are very ambitious, organized and somewhat controlling are more vulnerable to stress, less emphasis is placed on celebrities and why they are potentially as susceptible to the negative effects of stress.

The breakdown of many celebrities has been well publicized from Britney’s hair shaving to Sheridan’s drunken antics on stage. However it is possible that these celebrities are more vulnerable to breakdowns because of the very nature of their personalities, it could be argued people who are drawn to a life lived out in front of others, to entertain and garner attention could be compensating for deeper issues such as a lack of self esteem which they feel can only be satiated by the attention of others. Such people could therefore be less likely to be able to cope with problems and the resulting stress. For instance, someone with low self esteem may not feel able to deal with the prospect of a terminal illness in the family as they could well feel ill-equipped and the resulting backlash from the public whom they are used to receiving adulation from could exacerbate the problem and result in such catastrophic meltdowns as those we have experienced from Sheridan Smith and many before her.

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