Moment’s Elephant in the Room Contest

November, 27 2012

Moment‘s annual Elephant in the Room Contest asks readers to weigh in on important but seldom-discussed topics. This year’s contest, a partnership between Moment and the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety, asks readers to tell us how anxiety has affected them, their family or the Jewish people in general. Though anxiety is often shrouded in secrecy and embarrassment, there have been many highly visible sufferers of the disorder. Here are just a few of the famous names who dealt with anxiety:

  • Charles Darwin: The scientist suffered from myriad health problems, including headaches, exhaustion and anxiety. His health was so precarious that it kept him from social activity. In his 1876 autobiography, Darwin wrote, ” I have therefore been compelled for many years to give up all dinner-parties; and this has been somewhat of a deprivation to me, as such parties always put me into high spirits. From the same cause I have been able to invite here very few scientific acquaintances.” Doctors have speculated that Darwin may have suffered from panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other illnesses.
  • Laurence Olivier: The celebrated actor first suffered from severe stage fright in 1964, while playing Othello. He asked other actors not to look him in the eye to avoid exacerbating his fear. Olivier said that stage fright was “an animal, a monster which hides in its foul corner without revealing itself but you know that it is there and that it may come forward at any moment.”¬†
  • Barbra Streisand: Worrying that she “might not hit a note” is one of the things that the singer says gives her her well-known stage fright. In Streisand: A Biography, writer Anne Edwards notes that Streisand feared “an audience that demanded almost more than she had to give and the close friends and loved ones whom she privately feared she had failed and to whom she felt committed to prove otherwise. “

The goal of this year’s Elephant in the Room Contest is to eliminate the stigma associated with anxiety. To enter the contest by December 7, submit your entry here or via email to

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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