When is Avicii coming to Russia

What we can learn from Avicii's fate

When Tim Bergling alias Avicii left the DJ booth at the age of only 26, he was physically and mentally exhausted. One year after his death, “Bluewin” discussed the possible effects of deadline stress and pressure to succeed with a psychiatrist.

He was one of the most successful DJs and producers of all time, hits like “LE7ELS” or “Wake me up” made him a superstar. Madonna, Robbie Williams and John Bon Jovi worked with him - even Barack Obama mentioned him in one of his speeches. Tim Bergling, better known as Avicii, made it to the top - but life in the show industry left him desperate.

So much so that he retired from the public eye in 2016 at the age of just 26. Tim Bergling died on April 20, 2018 while on vacation in Oman. Any outside influence that led to his death was ruled out.

A year later, the question of why remains. What long-term effects do the stress of appointments and the pressure to succeed have on a person - regardless of whether as a celebrated star in a flash of flashlights or as an employee in an open-plan office? We looked to Oliver Hartmann, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist from Zurich, for answers to questions about stressful factors in professional life.

Mr. Hartmann, why are fame and doom with some stars - let's take Avicii as an example - virtually inextricably linked?

It's hard to tell if you don't know or didn't know the person in question. There have probably been tragic artist fates at all times, and yet there are individual and different life stories behind them.

From my point of view, however, there is a lot to suggest that in the generation of Avicii and other younger artists, the hope and desire for fame is particularly strengthened by social media. A lot of people can be reached via channels like «Youtube» and you can - in a relatively short time - make it onto the big stage. However, through social media, artists and other persons of public interest are also quickly confronted with the dark side of their own celebrities.

What do you consider to be particularly stressful?

I can imagine that the world of DJs and music producers, especially at this level, is very exhausting. This is not an art movement that is based on a classical education and in which you are slowly and gradually introduced to a wider public and to success. In addition, one is constantly on the move in this industry: Famous DJs appear in clubs around the world - and then have the pressure to always and everywhere have to deliver on time and at high frequency.


"Through social media, artists and other people of public interest are quickly confronted with the dark side of their own celebrities."


And that, although artists are more of a sensitive nature ...

It is certainly not easy for those affected to manage the balancing act between artistic creation and the demands made by those around them. Especially not when more and more commercial interests play a role. As I said, tragic artist fates have probably always existed. One could postulate that this is a little part of art. It is quite possible that today, given the circumstances, it has become even more difficult.

Do you think that people who are in public are at higher risk of developing the disease?

From my point of view, that depends very much on individual characteristics. Take, for example, people with a narcissistic personality structure: They often seek the limelight and public attention, but at the same time they are also at greater risk of becoming mentally ill. But that does not mean that all people who are in public because of their special talents are narcissistic personalities. And that probably doesn't apply to Tim Bergling alias Avicii either.

It should not be underestimated that today you have to be constantly present on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms. Some celebrities post something on their accounts almost around the clock. They are recognized, photographed and filmed everywhere, which means that there are hardly any places of retreat where they can feel safe and are not bothered. This permanent stress load is probably already associated with an increased risk of harm to health.

You mentioned the narcissistic personalities, to whom one can count a large part of the DJ and music producers. Tim Bergling was different - a quiet tinkerer, someone who shied away from the big stage. Nevertheless, he felt it was his duty to take part in countless shows. What does that do to a sensitive, introverted person?

I have to say that as a psychiatrist / psychotherapist I didn't get to know many people who were active in this industry and who got into a similarly extreme situation. One can ask oneself, however, whether someone who has withdrawn and discovered and developed his art and creativity as a tinkerer, is suitable for a life like this that can cope with it. Especially if his path to music and art had something to do with shyness, shyness and withdrawal from other people from the start. This combination is sure to be quite difficult and critical, especially for someone of this young age.

It is easy to imagine how fears, insecurity, restlessness, sleep disorders ... can arise on this basis - a whole range of psychiatric symptoms.

Avicii numbed his fears with intoxicants. Are people with anxiety disorders more likely to consume alcohol and drugs?

It is relatively common for such people to have a secondary problem with substance use. It is about the consumption of alcohol, drugs such as tranquilizers or opiates, which are suitable for short-term reduction of anxiety.

It is easy to understand when someone who suffers from social anxiety but is constantly surrounded by many people and feels uncomfortable as a result, tries to regulate their anxieties down with alcohol or medication. This usually works very well and reliably in the short term - in the long term it can be destructive.


“It is relatively common for such people to have a secondary problem with substance use. »


Actually, it would have been expected that Bergling would recover from stage life after his retirement. Two years later he was dead. Should he have pulled the "rip cord" earlier?

When someone has achieved so much, especially in such a short time, it is definitely not easy to get out and start all over again somewhere else. You don't have to be a world star for that. I also know that from people who are retiring: Before you begin, you might think that you are leaving your stressful professional life behind you in one fell swoop and enjoying your free time. Instead, there is sometimes a great void.

You don't have to be particularly narcissistic to feel that you are missing recognition, responsibility, admiration and success. What you have experienced and received before is suddenly gone. Even someone who is more sensitive, shy and reserved gets used to the positive sides of fame. For such a celebrity who has gained such public interest, the associated effects are comparable to withdrawal. Similar to a drug that the body has gotten used to and which is then suddenly no longer available. This creates withdrawal symptoms.

Whether there is a ripcord or a right time to get out of such a situation is difficult to say. But this stage life is certainly associated with such risks and at some point it can be too late - almost like a drug addiction.

Regardless of whether you work in show business, in a bank or run a restaurant: Which factors increase the risk of getting mentally ill because of the job?

I can also report that everyday life in psychiatric practice has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years. In the past, the classic psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders were in the foreground. Today so-called stress sequelae take up a lot of space. This is known, for example, under the term «burnout». It is not about people who primarily suffer from a mental illness, but about the consequences of persistent stress in certain life situations. Especially in today's working world. The uncertainty about professional future and economic existence plays a major role in this.

This is also reinforced by the anonymity and the often almost incomprehensible decision-making processes in large companies. But the way we deal with each other also seems to have changed: factors such as lack of appreciation, lack of personal approach and support, right up to conflicts - keyword “bullying” - also contribute to this. Apparently more and more people who actually have a healthy basic psychological constitution are falling ill.

Why is it so difficult for some people to recognize destructive structures and to free themselves from such a mill?

Often there is an existential fear behind it and the financial responsibility for the family and the children. These are of course very real factors that often lead to warning signals being ignored and perhaps not being able to pull the emergency brake in time.

What role does the environment play?

On the one hand, it can be relieving and supportive. On the other hand, I keep seeing patients for whom it is difficult in different areas of life: Problems at work and at the same time conflicts with the partner, the children or a parent in need of care who demands a lot of strength and attention. The environment can also be an additional burden.

“In the past, the focus was on classic psychiatric illnesses. Today so-called stress-related illnesses occupy a large area. "

Are there any warning signs that should be taken seriously?

Usually there are very specific, physically noticeable signs. Take a very common one, sleep disorders. With the lack of sleep one becomes thin-skinned, more vulnerable, and thus also reacts more sensitively to situations and conflicts, for example in everyday working life. If alcohol and / or sleeping pills are used or misused, the person concerned quickly gets into a vicious circle.

Other possible signs include decreased appetite and weight loss, or losing the ability to relax and enjoy things that have always made friends. If such symptoms occur, they should be taken seriously and not too long to seek professional help. At the same time, it can be helpful to pay attention to said signs in one's fellow human beings and to address them about them.


To person:Dr. med. Oliver Hartmann is a specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy and a specialist in neurology. He completed his specialist training in Germany and has lived and worked in Switzerland since 2000. Until 2005 he worked as a senior physician in the psychiatric clinic Sanatorium Kilchberg on Lake Zurich, since then he has worked in his own practice, the Neurozentrum Fluntern in Zurich.

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