Behind the Smile and Beats: Even DJs can have Mental Illness

While searching for mental health news, I stumbled upon news reporting on the rise of mental illness among EDM musicians. I’m surprised because when I attended raves, these musicians projected an air of confidence and charisma. They seemed to enjoy their career and their fans. Reading about their problems allowed me to see that behind the smile and beats, lies potential problems for these performers.

EDM musicians, such as Avicii, Erick Morillo, Benga, and Deadmau5 have one way or the other battled mental health problems. Avicii retired at 26, in which five years of touring and drinking place him in the hospital twice. Morillo was addicted to ketamine which nearly cost him his arm and Benga was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder, which he believed was brought on by years of long tours and drug taking.

There are psychological issues that DJs face. These problems include no privacy, loss of sense of self, loss of being challenged, imposter syndrome, and the quest for fame immortality. Furthermore, the image of the troubled DJ may lead to an adverse effect on their career. Since EDM has moved to big business and money, anyone can take advantage if a successful DJ shows any weakness.

EDM has a different culture than other musical genres. In an article from The Guardian, Electro House musician Steve Aoki explains that unlike bands, DJs don’t stop touring. Aoki himself has regularly played 200 shows per year. In the same article, Tony McGuinness, from the English progressive trance group Above and Beyond, states that “The difference [between the music cultures] is the speed at which a DJ can tour. You have this completely flexible timescale that’s not available in rock’n’roll at all, and you’re often on in the middle of the night.” Moreover, McGuinness describes DJs as pinballs that are free and easy to fly around the world. “These days you’re [often] just carrying a pair of headphones and an SD card. It’s very mobile, so we can do more shows that are farther apart. A tour bus determining the pace of your travel is a restriction that’s lifted from the DJ world.”

More shows mean more stressors on the body. If the musicians ignore the stress, it will likely equal to more psychological problems.

There are ways to keep balance when touring. Aoki mediates and has fruits, vegetables, and protein while on the road. American DJ, Curt Cameruci aka Flosstradamus, does yoga and Moby exercises for at least 90 minutes a day.

Despite the hectic touring and unpredictable schedule, there are ways to be healthy in the spotlight.

Information from:

Depression, Isolation, and Drug Addiction: When DJing Becomes a Mental Health Issue

DJs and Mental Health: Electronic Music’s Last Taboo

Drugs, sleeplessness, and isolation: the downside of being a dance musician

By Charito Yap [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons