What's ailing Kanye? Depends on what 'exhaustion' means in Hollywood

Kanye West is suffering from "exhaustion," according to E! News and People. He joins a long line of celebrities who have ended up floored by ... well, what exactly?

Following days of erratic and angry behavior and after abruptly canceling the remaining 21 dates on his Saint Pablo tour, West was hospitalized Monday after his personal doctor called 911, according to E! News. As of Wednesday, he was still at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center but "feeling much better," according to Entertainment Tonight.

Cynics might be excused for assuming "exhaustion" is just a Hollywood publicist's catch-all euphemism to tell the media while they and their clients decide what to divulge.

"'Exhaustion' can mean anything from something really serious or a press stunt, and the fact we don’t know any details from a family known  for over-revealing makes people very suspicious," says former publicist-turned-gossip-writer (NaughtyGossip.com) Rob Shuter.

Dr. Jenn Mann, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles who serves as a counselor on VH-1’s Family Therapy and Couple’s Therapy, concurs that it's "often suspect" when a celeb hospitalization for exhaustion or dehydration makes the news.

"Oftentimes, it’s a cover for either mental-health issues or substance abuse," she says. "And the fact that they have canceled 21 of his tour dates points to it being something other than exhaustion or dehydration. If it was, they’d let him sleep and they’d hydrate him and he’d go back to work.”

Although exhaustion is often cited to mask more serious problems, "this is a real disease," says Leonard Jason, a psychology professor at DePaul University in Chicago, who has been studying chronic fatigue for 25 years.

Indeed, experts agree that exhaustion is a real illness, covering a multitude of symptoms, terms and causes of varying severity. It's recognized by medical insurance companies and the diagnostic manual published by the World Health Organization, the ICD. There are multiple billing codes depending on whether the exhaustion is the result of overheating, pregnancy, excessive exertion, stress, salt depletion, combat, or simple burnout.

Jason says the characteristics of exhaustion include cognitive confusion, such as impairment of memory and concentration, feeling sick after exercise, and "unrefreshing" sleep.

West is in good company in Hollywood, where overworked, stressed celebs have frequently pleaded exhaustion when checking in for medical care.

Mariah Carey was hospitalized for "extreme exhaustion" in 2001. Eminem canceled a tour in 2005 due to "exhaustion" and other medical issues, later revealed as sleep medication dependency. And just as Lady Gaga was becoming a superstar in 2010, she canceled and postponed tour dates after "exhaustion and dehydration" resulted in an irregular heartbeat, dizziness and difficulty breathing.

Demi Moore cited "exhaustion" in 2012 when she was treated following news of her divorce from Ashton Kutcher.Dave Chappelle in Los Angeles in 2007, Amy Winehouse in London in 2007 (four years before she died of accidental alcohol poisoning), Susan Boyle in London in 2009 ... The list of boldfaced names treated for exhaustion is long.

West's hospitalization comes after he ignited a Twitter storm last week by saying he "would've voted for Donald Trump" during a concert in Inglewood, Calif.

More recently, West, 39, cut his Saturday concert in Sacramento short after several songs, but not before calling out Beyoncé and addressing Jay Z: "Call me, brah, you still ain't call me. Jay Z, I know you got killas, please don't send them at my head. Just call me. Talk to me like a man," he said.

According to PeopleKim Kardashian's October trauma, when she was held at gunpoint and robbed inside her Paris hotel during Fashion Week, has compounded holiday-season grief for the rapper, who lost his mother due to complications during elective surgery in November 2007. She was 58.

Mann suspects West's behavior has been "manic" and could potentially point to something like bipolar disorder.

"Typically, with those kinds of mental illnesses, anniversaries are particularly traumatic for them. Stress can be the thing that puts you over the edge," she says. "His wife’s been held up at gunpoint. It’s the anniversary of his mother’s death and it’s Thanksgiving. So there are a lot of stressors for someone who may not be in the best shape right now.”

Mann says West did the smart thing by checking into the hospital, where doctors can give him a proper diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan. "What he needs is ongoing therapy. I think that he needs to grieve the loss of his mother. I think he needs some help with stress management and I think he needs to address any underlying issues and possible mental-health issues that are going on and he needs to be evaluated for medication."

The reality is that as long as there are celebrities trying to balance personal lives with brutal production and promotional schedules, there will always likely be cases of exhaustion. So what can be done when the next bold-faced name seeks help?

Chappelle gave some prescient advice during his 2006 appearance on Inside the Actor's Studio: "The worst thing to call somebody is 'crazy.' It’s dismissive.'“I don’t understand this person, so they’re crazy.' It’s (expletive). Because people are not crazy. They’re strong people. Maybe the environment is a little sick."

Contributing: Jayme Deerwester


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