Why do celebrities such as Demi Moore say they are being admitted for "exhaustion" when there is no insurance company in the world that will pay for someone to "rest up" and no one really believes the diagnosis of "exhaustion" anyway? Why say anything at all?
_ Mallie K., via Facebook
I've interviewed a range of doctors, from straight-up M.D.s to addiction specialists, and they all agree with you: If you think insurance is going to reimburse you for weariness, good luck with that. Celebrities aren't fooling anybody with that old saw, either. But there's a good reason why they use the same unbelievable language time and again ...
Moore is the latest in a long line of celebrities to announce treatment for exhaustion. Tracy Morgan's rep claims that the comedian's recent out-passing at Sundance was partially exhaustion-related. Lady Gaga has claimed a bad romance with the same problem. Mariah Carey, Dave Chapelle—the list goes on and on.
It would all make a lot of sense, except, medically, it doesn't.
"Exhaustion is a symptom," confirms Andrew Spanswick, founder of the KLEAN Treatment Center in West Hollywood.
In saying this, Spanswick echoes the conclusions of many kinds of health experts I have spoken with, including Steven Krems, a doctor at the Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center, who told me several years ago that "It's not a medical diagnosis. It's a symptom … Exhaustion is how they are feeling, [not] whatever it causing it, whether that is drugs, anemia, pneumonia, whatever."
In other words, saying that you're seeking treatment for exhaustion is like saying you're seeing a doctor for sneezing. You're sick with something else. The sneezing is the sign.
So why do stars keep using the term? Because, in Hollywood, at least, it's a kind of code. It's shorthand for "Feeling Like Crap, None of Your Business."
"The celebrities are balancing between an obligation to disclose things to the public versus protecting their rights to privacy," Spanswick says. "Smart publicists will use words like ‘exhaustion' to minimize potential damage or gossip within the media but also protect a star's privacy rights."
That is, assuming that anyone even believes that word anymore. And assuming that the star even knows what she's suffering from in the first place.
"They may not know what the problem is yet," Spanswick very reasonably points out. "Or they may be in denial of what their problem might be."
As for exactly what Moore is suffering from, well, this is Hollywood. We'll find out on Ellen eventually.
(Originally published Jan. 25, 2012, at 5:30 p.m. PT)