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Top 10 Famous People with Agoraphobia

by John Munoz
fact checked by Rachel Jones

Famous and successful people sometimes appear like nothing can bring them down. However, a majority of them suffer from a type of anxiety disorder called agoraphobia. 

This condition is the fear of places or situations that might cause a panic attack or lead to feelings of helplessness or embarrassment. It is usually caused by the worry that they will have no way to escape if the anxiety intensifies. Here are ten unexpected famous people carrying a fear of uncontrollable anxiety despite their success. 

10 Donny Osmond

Social Anxiety Disorder

Donald Clark Osmond is a former teen idol who began his celebrity career in a family soft rock band called the Osmonds. Their peak from 1971 to 1975 earned them several gold albums and top ten hits. Osmond later went solo and earned additional top ten songs before partnering with his sister, Marie, as television hosts and duets. They hosted a Daytime Emmy Award-nominated talk show and headlined in a residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas for eleven years until 2019.

In the 1990s, Osmond found success in musical theater, starring as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Despite playing in over two thousand performances, Osmond suffered from social anxiety that made him light-headed and extremely nervous during performances.

Osmond has discussed his struggle with agoraphobia in a memoir, Life Is Just What You Make It, and on the Dr. Phil television show. He said his celebrity and the worry he would fail and negatively affect his family triggered his anxiety. His disorder was so severe it caused panic attacks that had him curled up in the corner of the room. He also had uncontrollable shaking that led to hospital visits. Osmond has been quoted on CBS News saying, “There are times I remember before I walked on stage, where if I had the choice of walking on stage or dying, I would have chosen death.”

9 Paula Deen

Paula Deen’s Agoraphobia and Fear of Death | Oprah’s Next Chapter | Oprah Winfrey Network

Paula Ann Hiers Deen, also called the “Queen of Southern Cooking,” is best known as a cooking show host and author of over a dozen cookbooks. She began her career on the Food Network in 1999 and has appeared on shows such as “Ready, Set, Cook!,” “Paula’s Home Cooking,” and “Paula’s Best Dishes.” In June 2007, Paula Deen’s “Paula’s Home Cooking” show won a Daytime Emmy Award. However, did you know she founded her cooking skills from her anxiety disorder?

Throughout most of her life, Deen had an acute condition of agoraphobia. It began in her mid-twenties after her parent’s death that caused an intense fear of dying. The fear created panic attacks that prevented her from leaving the house for weeks at a time. Deen found she could only visit the supermarket during these episodes but still not venture too far inside. She said, “I learned to cook with the ingredients they kept close to the door,” and worked on mastering classic Southern dishes her grandmother taught her. 

8 Macaulay Culkin 

Macaulay Culkin Responds to Home Alone Conspiracy Theories

Macaulay Culkin is an American actor that was one of the most successful child actors of the 1990s. He is best known as Kevin McCallister in the first two “Home Alone” film series, where the Golden Globes awarded him for Best Actor. Culkin has also starred in 1993’s “The Nutcracker” and the 1994’s “Richie Rich.” Culkin was on E! ‘s list of the 50 Greatest Child Stars and VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Kid-Stars. As he grew up, his fame faded, and he became a recluse, barely leaving his house. 

In 2004, he admitted to Larry King that he had agoraphobia. His anxiety stemmed from a fear of photographers invading his privacy and feeling like buildings would eat him if he left the house. He has worked on his condition and bought a dog to get him out of the house for walks. 

7 Kim Basinger

Kimila Ann Basinger is a former fashion model and an American actress whose good looks and comedic skills earned her top movie star status in the 1980s. She started her television acting career in 1976 and has starred in multiple films since, including the 1983’s Bond film, “Never Say Never Again,” Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman,” and the 2017 “Fifty Shades Darker.” Basinger also won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the 1997 film “LA Confidential.” With this impressive portfolio of work, it is hard to believe she struggled with anxiety disorders since she was a child. 

In her youth, Basinger’s anxiety was so severe her parents initially thought she had autism. She remained vulnerable to her condition even while she rose to fame. She had a disabling fear of public spaces and spent days indoors crying during the worst of her condition.

In her 20s, Basinger experienced a bad episode that resulted in her sweating, shaking, and confined to her home for six months. Basinger has been public about her experiences and helped raise awareness on the disorder by appearing in the HBO documentary “Panic: A Film About Coping.”

6 Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand Is Not a Diva

With decades of experience in multiple entertainment fields, Barbara Joan “Barbra” Streisand has achieved success as a singer, actress, and filmmaker. She is one of the few people with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. She is one of the best-selling recording artists, with over 150 million records sold worldwide. Streisand also starred in multiple films, including “Funny Girl,” “Hello, Dolly!,” and 2012’s “Guilt Trip” with Seth Rogen. Following the release of “Yentl” in 1983, she became the first woman to write, produce, direct, and star in a major studio film. She was also the first woman to receive a Golden Globe Award for Best Director.

Despite all her success, Streisand had a 27-year hiatus from public appearances. She refused to perform after forgetting lyrics on stage at a 1966 Central Park, New York free concert. As a perfectionist, this incident affected her intensely. She was filming “Funny Girl,” which had some controversy requiring 300 police officers at the concert, but there were only 30. She was scared and said, “So I forgot words to three of my songs. . . I totally spaced out. It’s show business. Aren’t you supposed to be cute and hum? Nothing. And so I didn’t sing again for 27 years.”

Streisand tried taking anxiety medication and sought professional help to ease her back into performing again. She realized the root of her agoraphobia was from the need to be seen as perfect. Once Streisand stopped trying to seek perfection on stage and believed she was enough, her condition improved.

5 Earl Campbell

#55: Earl Campbell | The Top 100: NFL’s Greatest Players (2010) | NFL Films

Earl Christian Campbell, also known as The Tyler Rose, is a former American professional football player in the National Football League (NFL). He was one of the best power running backs during his career with the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints. Campbell accepted a scholarship to play college football for the Texas Longhorns and won the Heisman Trophy. The Oilers drafted him in 1978, where he earned NFL Rookie of the Year. In 1979, he won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award and won MVP two more times. The NFL also inducted him into the Hall of Fame. 

After he retired from the NFL, Campbell started suffering from uncontrollable feelings similar to getting a stroke. In 1989, he finally sought help and was finally diagnosed with panic and anxiety disorder. Since receiving help for his disorder, Campbell has spoken to physicians and patient groups across America about his experiences and inspired others to seek help.

He currently gets calls from people around the country and has proudly said, “I am happy to be able to help them out, to talk them through. They figure if Earl Campbell can get this thing, they shouldn’t feel too bad.”

4 Woody Allen

Illness Anxiety Disorder (Hypochondriasis) Illustration – Woody Allen

Allan Stewart Konigsberg, now known as Woody Allen, is an American comedian, film director, writer, and actor who has numerous awards over his 50-year film career, including Best Picture and Best Director. As of 2021, he still has the most Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay, with three wins from sixteen nominations. Three of his notable award-winning films are “Annie Hall,” “Midnight in Paris,” and “Hannah and Her Sisters.”

Allen has multiple phobias and unique ritualistic manners. He often includes his experiences with anxiety in his films, such as the anxious lovers in “Annie Hall.” Allen is agoraphobic, claustrophobic, won’t go through tunnels, and doesn’t like showers with drains in the center of the floor. He also has the same breakfast every day that includes a banana he cuts into seven slices. Yes, he counts and recounts them to ensure the right number of slices.

3 Brian Wilson 

The Lost Years Of Brian Wilson

Brian Douglas Wilson is an American musician who co-founded the Beach Boys. He wrote over two dozen Top 40 hits for the group and contributed to songs such as “Surfin’ USA” and “Good Vibrations.” Wilson was known as a genius with a mastery of recording techniques as a record producer. However, he also had lifelong issues with mental illness. It is assumed these issues stemmed from childhood trauma due to an abusive father and an alcoholic mother. 

Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown in 1964. Because of this, he stopped touring with the group. As his condition worsened, he became more reclusive and ended up self-medicating with drugs. After his father died in 1973, he lived in seclusion, drinking, and using cocaine.

On top of his agoraphobia, he also had symptoms of auditory hallucinations, as in schizophrenia. Wilson started treatment for the first time in 1975. By the 1990s, he started creating solo and touring again. Since 1998, he received coaching to cope with his stage fright to perform live consistently.  

2 Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg treated for fear of flying using TFT on The View, part 1

Caryn Elaine Johnson, professionally known as Whoopi Goldberg, is a famous author, comedian, actress, and talk show host. She is one of sixteen people to win a Grammy, Academy, Emmy, and Tony Award. Her well-known films of the early 1990s include Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple,” the romantic fantasy “Ghost,” and the comedy “Sister Act.” By 1993, she became the highest-paid actress. In 2007, she began co-hosting the talk show “The View,” which also won a Daytime Emmy Award. Throughout all of this, Goldberg suffered extreme anxiety that led to agoraphobia with aerophobia, the fear of flying. She could only travel by car, train, or bus.

Goldberg’s condition resulted from a traumatizing witness of two planes colliding midair and claiming 135 lives. In 1978, while she was living in San Diego and on her apartment balcony, she saw the PSA Flight 182 and a Cessna collide.

Just the thought of flying would make her break into a sweat, worrying about planes collisions. She said, “I saw something that built in my mind until it became such a big thing for me that it was just impossible to fly.” Whoopi Goldberg underwent exposure therapy by enrolling in a flying without fear program. As of 2020, she managed to conquer her fear and flew over the Atlantic to London. 

1 Elfriede Jelinek

Elfriede Jelinek – a portrait

Austrian playwright and novelist Elfriede Jelinek is a decorated author and considered one of the most important living playwrights in the German language. Some of her notable novels include “The Piano Teacher” and “Lust.” In 2004, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.  

Despite her critical acclaim, Jelinek developed agoraphobia and social phobia after she decided to write seriously. Her disorder doesn’t allow her to board airplanes, go to the cinema, or participate in ceremonies. For these reasons, she did not accept her Nobel Prize in person and instead attended by video message. Although some criticized her for her decision to appear virtually, others appreciated how Jelinek was honest about her condition.

fact checked by Rachel Jones