What Mental Health Issues Did Marilyn Monroe Struggle With: Expert Tell You

Marilyn Monroe's troubled childhood, battle with depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse reveal the dark side of her mental health struggles.

The Early Years: A Glimpse into Marilyn Monroe’s Troubled Childhood

Marilyn Monroe’s difficult childhood was marked by neglect, abuse and instability that contributed to her mental health struggles as an adult. She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson and lived in foster homes for periods of her youth due to her mother’s mental health issues. Many biographers argue that Monroe’s poor relationship with her absent mother and lack of a stable nurturing environment during her formative years led to abandonment issues. At times, 10 to 15 year old norma jeane would be left on her own for months while her mother was institutionalized. These experiences shaped Monroe’s psyche and likely played a role in her underlying anxiety, depression and substance abuse as an adult.
More comprehensive information and care guidelines can be read here.

marylin monroe, loneliness, man in black jacket sitting on brown grass field during daytime
Photo by Hannah Busing / Unsplash

Unmasking the Demons: Marilyn Monroe’s Battle with Depression

Marilyn Monroe struggled with bouts of depression throughout her lifetime. Her depression symptoms included feelings of hopelessness, emptiness, and loneliness. Monroe’s struggles with depression were linked to multiple factors:

  • Troubled childhood: Monroe’s difficult upbringing marked with abuse and abandonment contributed to depression and low self-esteem in adulthood.

  • Relationship issues: Monroe had three failed marriages along with numerous short-lived relationships that ended painfully, causing bouts of sadness and depressive symptoms.

  • Pressure of fame: Monroe struggled to cope with the demands of her high-profile Hollywood career which often exacerbated her feelings of inadequacy and loneliness.

Her therapist Ralph Greenson noted that Monroe had difficulty “distinguishing between her outer role and her inner self”, leading to identity issues and confusion. Some key examples of Marilyn Monroe’s battles with depression include:

  1. She made several suicide attempts including overdosing on sleeping pills.

  2. Monroe had a history of self-harming behaviors including cutting herself with razors.

  3. Greenson stated that Monroe suffered from “chronic low-grade depression” for the majority of her adult life.

  4. She underwent multiple rounds of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as a treatment for her depression.

Marilyn Monroe’s struggle with depression was life-long and complex, rooted in the trauma of her childhood as well as the pressures that fame placed on her troubled psyche.

marylin monroe, loneliness, silhouette of a woman with pink and purple sky
Photo by Sasha Freemind / Unsplash

Behind the Smile: Unraveling Marilyn Monroe’s Anxiety Disorders

Marilyn Monroe experienced a number of anxiety disorders alongside her depression, though she masked them with her cheerful public persona. Her struggles with social anxiety and panic attacks were exacerbated by her high-profile career:

  • Symptoms of social anxiety: Monroe reportedly experienced symptoms like blushing, trembling, and sweating in social situations. She avoided public events and large crowds whenever possible.

  • Panic attacks: Monroe suffered from frequent panic attacks, with symptoms like rapid heartbeat, chest pain, and choking sensations. These often occurred before public appearances or film premieres.

  • Phobias: Monroe developed phobias of flying and of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), which made certain aspects of her Hollywood career difficult.

  • Performance anxiety: Monroe experienced high levels of stage fright and performance anxiety, which caused her considerable distress during film shoots and public appearances.

Monroe’s anxieties were particularly intense due to:

  • Her troubled childhood and abandonment issues which left her feeling insecure.

  • The constant pressure of media scrutiny and public attention, which made her intensely self-conscious.

  • Heightened self-critical tendencies that left her prone to doubt her abilities.

While Monroe’s cheerful public persona helped mask her anxieties, they took a heavy toll on her mental and physical health:

  • Monroe developed insomnia and digestive issues due to stress.

  • She became dependent on prescription drugs -likely starting as a means to self-medicate her anxiety.

  • Her constant worries reportedly weighed on her mind, contributing to depression and feelings of hopelessness.

Overall, Monroe’s anxiety disorders significantly impacted her wellbeing and ability to function normally. While she coped through persona, drugs and denial for a time, they ultimately compounded her other mental health struggles.

marylin monroe, loneliness, man in blue and red jacket standing beside black wooden table
Photo by Jordan Brierley / Unsplash

Unveiling the Dark Side: Marilyn Monroe’s Struggle with Substance Abuse

Marilyn Monroe turned to prescription drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and cope with her severe mental health issues, which ultimately led to problems with substance abuse and addiction later in life.

  • Prescription drug abuse: Monroe regularly abused prescription medications like barbiturates and amphetamines to deal with anxiety, depression and insomnia. She was prescribed as many as 84 pills per day by her doctor at the height of her addiction.

  • Dependence and abuse: Monroe became dangerously dependent on these drugs, taking high doses beyond what was prescribed. Her substance abuse worsened as her mental health issues intensified.

  • Alcohol abuse: Monroe also turned to alcohol to cope, drinking heavily at times. Witnesses described multiple instances of Monroe appearing intoxicated in public.

  • Overdoses and health complications: Monroe’s substance abuse resulted in multiple overdoses and trips to the emergency room. It also took a toll on her physical health, contributing to health issues like weight fluctuations and skin problems.

  • Difficulty quitting: Despite health risks and overdoses, Monroe struggled to curtail her substance abuse and frequently changed doctors in an attempt to continue getting prescriptions.

  • Role in Monroe’s death: Though Monroe’s cause of death remains debated, many argue that years of substance abuse left her system vulnerable and contributed to her death at age 36 from an overdose.

Monroe’s struggles with mental health issues like depression and anxiety started her down the path of substance abuse early in her career. As her dependence on medications and alcohol grew, they began worsening the very issues she was self-medicating. This cycle of abuse spun further out of control until it ultimately cut her life short. Monroe’s story serves as a cautionary tale of the dangers of untreated mental illness and self-medication through substances.

marylin monroe, loneliness, man in black shirt sitting on bed
Photo by Gioele Fazzeri / Unsplash

More Helpful Guide

Frequently Asked Question

What was Marilyn Monroe’s measurements?

Marilyn Monroe’s measurements were 35-22-35 inches.

Who was Marilyn Monroe’s second husband?

Marilyn Monroe’s second husband was Joe DiMaggio.

Who owns the rights to Marilyn Monroe’s image now?

Authentic Brands Group owns the rights to Marilyn Monroe’s image today.

What mental illness did Marilyn Monroe suffer from?

Marilyn Monroe suffered from mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.

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