Demi Moore’s Hospitalization: Exhaustion a Real Diagnosis?

by Dr. Karen Ruskin on January 25, 2012

With Demi Moore’s hospitalization reported by her publicist due to exhaustion, many ask; is “exhaustion” really a diagnosis? The term exhaustion in and of itself is not a diagnosis in the DSM-IV (the manual mental health professionals use to diagnose a client and then submit for insurance reimbursement). Typically the term “exhaustion” is considered a symptom of a problem. Often the diagnosis itself can explain exhaustion. Exhaustion is most commonly seen as a symptom of depression. Exhaustion, when it comes to celebrities, is often a euphemism for drug and alcohol addiction or mental illness such as depression.

From this mental health expert’s perspective, whether Demi; a) has true exhaustion, b) if her exhaustion is a symptom of a problem, or c) a euphemism for another problem, my position in this blog article is not to diagnose Demi. Rather, it is my intent to educate the reader on the topic of an often misunderstood term and explain that although it is not listed in the DSM-IV, exhaustion in and of itself is a real problem and I do consider a legitimate diagnosis for those who truly have exhaustion. Well, as legitimate as a diagnosis as can be when not an actual code in the DSM-IV. Whether a person has true exhaustion in and of itself or if exhaustion is a symptom of another problem,  it is not a joke, nor an eye roller, and rather should be taken seriously.

What is exhaustion? When would you consider a person has true exhaustion?

Exhaustion is a physical and emotional collapse. Then, exhaustion is a legitimate diagnosis, but it certainly is not an accurate diagnosis if the real diagnosis is drug or alcohol abuse, intoxication, overdose, addiction, or some other mental illness. Therefore in Demi’s case, considering there are those sources who are reporting Demi’s hospitalization is substance based, if those sources are correct, that is not the same as exhaustion. Exhaustion then would be a symptom of a problem.

Exhaustion is a part of life for many the average person, the way in which we use the term exhaustion. Then there are those of whom exhaustion can be so debilitating that the person requires hospitalization, that is quite different then the typical way in which a person will commonly say; “what a day, I feel exhausted”. When exhaustion in and of itself causes someone to physically and emotionally collapse and is therefore unable to function, that is exhaustion.

What causes exhaustion?

Prolonged periods of; a) physical stress, b) sleep deprivation, c) emotional stress, and d) intense overwork put together is a package that can cause exhaustion. When it comes to celebrities, put ‘a through d’ together and include in that mix; e) their often intense lifestyle along, f) for some lacking in proper nutrition, and g) the glare of the spotlight —that all put together can lead to a physical and emotional collapse, AKA: exhaustion.

What is the basic course of treatment this psychotherapist would hope a person with exhaustion is receiving while hospitalized?

Ruling out medical causes of exhaustion is an important part of treatment. For example, exhaustion is commonly seen as a possible side effect of prescription drugs including muscle relaxants and mood stabilizers. Blood tests to check for infection and anemia as well as a urinalysis to look for liver disease etc.

Assuming there is no medical cause, my hope for mental health and wellness treatment would be to focus on the recovery of the mind and the body as separate entities and as an interconnected whole  to help the person stabilize. Specifically attending to each aspect of the causes of the exhaustion to help the person to help themselves to be in a healthier place both in mind and in body would be a significant focus. Exploring the person’s self talk, addressing and reinforcing healthy coping skills, getting back into a healthier regimen of physical health, appropriate sleep, emotional stress reaction healthy coping methods, along with a mindful awareness and acknowledgment of what one is feeling, thinking, experiencing, and concerned about is all of importance.

In addition I would be interested in the person exploring well before they are discharged what their plan outside of the hospital will be for how to deal with life’s stressers that contributed to the exhaustion to begin with. I would be interested in exploring who their support network is and life coping methods plan. In addition, I would hope that outpatient counseling would be recommended to continue to have a safe place to talk and go to through their life journey. It is my impression that a person who gets to a point of hospitalization due to exhaustion is likely to go back to their lifestyle that created this reaction to begin with, as it is a prolonged lifestyle that would lead a person to that point. Therefore having a safe place to talk could be a piece of the puzzle to prevent a re-hospitalization and remaining emotional and physical stabilization.

Check out today’s Boston Globe, The Daily Dose. Deborah Kotz interviewed this mental health expert for her article entitled: Demi Moore’s Exhaustion: Really a Medical Diagnosis?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Valerie Henderson May 21, 2014 at 9:43 am

Thank you for this information. My twin sister was hospitalized after passing out, once again. No other medical diagnosis found and cardiologist firmly holds to this “diagnosis”, probably unaware of her emotional component.

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Dr. Karen Ruskin May 21, 2014 at 11:16 am

My pleasure Valerie!

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