Hugh Laurie is best known for playing Doctor House; a walking-wounded medical genius whose brilliance and brokenness is deeply intertwined. Like his character, Laurie has wrestled with bouts of major depression.
Laurie came to prominence and fame on the back of a famous theatrical review in Cambridge, where he teamed up with Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry. Curiously both actors battled severe depression during their lives.
Laurie has had bouts with major depression, also called clinical depression. His depression, which he calls “heavyweight unhappiness” began in his late teens. He refuses to take medication for his condition but admits of a course of St John’s Wort.
Laurie concluded he had a problem with depression when driving in a demolition derby charity in 1996. In spite of explosions and crashing happening close to and around him he was not stimulated. Instead, he was bored. This lack of reaction made his flat mood noticeable to him. His reactions were not congruent or consistent with external stimuli and thought something was amiss into his head.
It affected everything – my family and friends. I was a pain in the arse to have around. I was miserable and self-absorbed. It’s actually selfish to be depressed and not try and do anything about it. *
This quote contains a lot of truth. A depressed person is not intentionally trying to be selfish but during an episode their feelings and concerns gravitate around themselves. For family and friends it can appear to be self-absorption. Hugh Laurie identified the problem and realised that action was needed. He was referred to a therapist and began talking therapy. According Celebrities with Diseases this course of therapy was undertaken for a couple of years with good success.
Hugh has publicly regretted speaking about his depression, as he doesn’t like when celebrities unnecessarily whine about their depression. We don’t want to inflate or exaggerate what he has been through; in some cases depression can be hastily or inappropriately spoken about. But we think it’s important to discuss his story, considering Laurie acknowledges depression as a serious disease and still remains a major taboo in life for many.
Hugh Laurie is prone to depression because he struggles to acknowledge his fine achievements in life. According to the London Evening Standard, he has a tendency to under rate his achievements and spends much time worrying if the projects he is involved with are going to be successful or not. In our first podcast on CBT and Depression we looked at how depression is not just negative thinking about oneself, it is often failing to acknowledge and enjoy legitimate achievements in life. Depressed people can react to success with a sense of guilt, as if they were a fraud that will eventually get discovered or “found out”. Often it doesn’t matter if you’ve climbed Everest and landed on the Moon – a depressed person doesn’t get satisfaction from achievements.
Hugh Laurie is a highly intelligent and thoughtful actor. He’s also a musician who recently released a successful album Let Them Talk. Guess what musical genre it was in? The blues, a genre about singing and baring your soul, the sweet and sour, the ups and downs. Hugh Laurie’s had the blues but continues to sing and entertain.
How Hugh Laurie Beat Depression
Hugh Laurie realised he was in a depressive state when he wasn’t responding to exciting events around him with any sort of reaction at all.
When deeply depressed in the late 90s he enlisted the help of a psychotherapist to work through his problems.
References and further reading
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