Tragic Details About Zac Efron

The following references addiction, mental health struggles, and body image issues.

Ever since he first graced our screens as one of the stars of "High School Musical," Zac Efron has captivated audiences and, indeed, captured the hearts of many stans. With his charisma and natural talent, Efron has steadily been on the rise since his days as Troy Bolton came to an end. In the past decade, he's taken on markedly different roles, playing a hard-partying, muscle-bound bro in "Neighbors" and then showcasing his aptitude for far darker fare when he portrayed Ted Bundy in "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile." Having received praise for his depiction of the notorious serial killer, Efron has proven his versatility as a performer — and a pretty convincing one, too.

Although he first rose to stardom as the squeaky clean boy next door, Efron's life was far from perfect. The perils of fame took their toll on the star and he soon found that the pursuit of perfection in an image-obsessed industry led him down a bumpy road.

However, he remains remarkably resilient and philosophical when reflecting on his past trauma, having survived what can at times be a superficial Tinseltown where dreams aren't quite what they seem. "Without those moments where you feel like your lowest, it's impossible to appreciate the high ones," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "But I sit here in front of you today much happier and healthier than I've probably ever been." Get the hankies ready for one harrowing ride. These are the tragic details about Zac Efron.

Zac Efron was teased at school

He may have risen to fame as a teen dreamboat in Hollywood, but Zac Efron's experience at school was apparently an entirely different story. According to a profile in The Mirror, Efron was unpopular at school; he had few friends and was branded a nerd. "Zac never knew how to handle the kids who teased him," a former classmate divulged. "He wasn't bullied constantly, but for him it made going to class very difficult."

The outlet's sources remembered a kid who was mocked after failing to land a backflip on the playground and teased for showing up to school with fresh highlights. "I don't remember Zac being popular at all," a classmate recalled. "He wasn't exactly the school heart-throb, he didn't really mingle with the other students because he was always at the theater and you never saw him with girls."

In a chat with, Efron opened up about his experiences being the unpopular kid at school. While he acknowledged that his bullying wasn't too severe, his classmates made it apparent that he wasn't popular. "I just wasn't like the 'it' guy at school," he reflected. Moreover, he admitted to self-loathing in an interview with Men's Journal, declaring, "I step back and look at myself and I still want to kick that guy's a** sometimes," in reference to his younger self.

He has agoraphobia, anxiety, and depression

Zac Efron has opened up about his struggles with mental illness. In an interview with Men's Health, he revealed that he finds it difficult to be in crowds and prefers to stay indoors. "I just don't go out. People in large groups, it triggers my agoraphobia," he disclosed. Agoraphobia is a condition that causes a person to have panic attacks when in open spaces. As ABC Australia notes, Efron has helped raise awareness of the relatively rare condition by opening up about his experiences.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Efron also explained that he lives with anxiety on a daily basis and is constantly overwhelmed by "thoughts, just thoughts, just overthinking things." In a chat with Bear Grylls (via MTV), the actor said that his anxiety was exacerbated by constant paparazzi intrusion into his life, which led to self-medicating.

In addition to his issues with agoraphobia and anxiety, Efron has discussed his ongoing struggle with depression. Accordingly, he admitted that he often used work as a distraction from his dark thoughts. "There was something lacking, some sort of hole that I couldn't really fill up," he reflected to The Hollywood Reporter, adding, "I was just so deep into my work, it was really the only thing I had. I clung to it in a way that became a little bit destructive." Subsequently, he became completely isolated from his friends and family, using work as an excuse not to see anybody.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Zac Efron was devastated by his grandmother's death

Zac Efron was super close with his grandparents. He once told People (via Digital Spy) that he'd rather go on a cute dance date with her grandma than go clubbing. And in 2017, he posted an adorable snap of his proud grandparents on Instagram, revealing that they were super excited to watch his movie "Baywatch" (he also helped his gramps sneak out of a retirement home, but that's a story for another day).

Sadly, Efron lost his grandmother just two years later. In a heartbreaking post, he made his late grandma one final promise. "Love you Grandma... We'll take good care of Grandpa for you," he wrote. During an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," the actor got emotional discussing his grandmother, who had died just days before. "May she rest in peace now. She just passed a few days ago. ... I'm a little sentimental right now," he said, much to the surprise of the host.

Paying tribute to his loved one, he recalled her hobby of scrapbooking, revealing that everyday she would buy him magazines such as Teen Beat and Tiger Beat and make posters out of them. "And then I started to realize behind them, there were actually, if you lifted them up, there were actually more," he recalled. "And so one day I just went and I wrote, 'To Grandma: I love you,' on all of them, and she hung them all over the house." We're not crying, you're crying.

Zac Efron lost his best friend – his dog

It's no secret that Zac Efron loves dogs. Speaking with People, he gushed about his adoration for his canine pals, quipping that he was more than happy to be upstaged by pups when sharing screen time with them. For many years, Efron's pride and joy was his dog, Puppy. Back in 2012, he revealed on Twitter that he celebrated Christmas morning with the adorable pooch.

In 2016, he sadly lost Puppy. On Instagram, he paid tribute to his late sidekick. "Through thick and thin you've always been my best friend," he wrote in a heartbreaking post. "I'll see you at the finish line, RIP Puppy Efron." The actor shared lyrics from Chance the Rapper's song "Finish Line/Drown," which includes the poignant lyrics, "I know he up there he just sit and he wait/ I'll be racing up the stairs I'mma get to the gate singing."

Two years later, he was able to bring new puppy love into his home when he saved the life of a dog, MACA, who was set to be euthanized, per People. As the humane pet shop Bark n' B****es Dog Boutique revealed on their Instagram page, MACA was due to be euthanized but they scooped her up. And then, Efron took notice of the pup and fell in love. "He went through our application process and fostered MACA and just could not give her back," the boutique revealed.

Zac Efron has almost died on several occasions

There are a number of celebs who have had near-death experiences. But in Zac Efron's case, he has escaped death on more than one occasion. In 2013, Efron shattered his jaw after slipping outside his house, an injury that almost killed him. "It sucks. I almost died, but we're good," he told Entertainment Tonight. The accident required Efron to have multiple stitches and his jaw wired shut.

This wouldn't be the actor's last brush with death. The following year, he nearly died when his chute malfunctioned during his appearance on "Running Wild with Bear Grylls," an experience he called "one of the worst things possible," per Men's Journal. Three years later, when filming "The Greatest Showman," he was almost killed riding his bike in London. "I'm not one to ride a bike early in the morning in traffic so it turned out to be quite dangerous. ... Suddenly there was a double decker bus right in front of me," he recalled on "The Graham Norton Show" (via People). "I slammed on the brakes, went under the front tire and narrowly missed death."

Then, Efron had a terrifying near-death experience when filming a documentary in Papua New Guinea in 2019. As reported by The Sunday Telegraph (via The Daily Mail), he contracted what was believed to be typhoid and fell seriously ill before Christmas. Subsequently, he made an urgent trip to Australia. On Instagram, Efron confirmed that he became ill, but made a recovery.

The actor has been open about his addiction struggles

2013 would prove a difficult year for the "High School Musical" alum. Zac Efron went to rehab twice for substance misuse. According to TMZ, he suffered a relapse while filming "Neighbors" and was finding it difficult to turn up for work. The outlet claimed that he began hanging with a new group of friends, who introduced him to cocaine.

Opening up to USA Today about his struggles with alcohol and drug misuse, Efron admitted that there was once a time when he wasn't too dissimilar from his live-fast-and-die-young "Neighbors" character, Teddy. "I think I was the bad neighbor," he acknowledged. Subsequently, colleagues expressed concern that playing Teddy may have triggered Efron, who was in the midst of recovery at the time.

In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, he elaborated on his personal turmoil. "I was drinking a lot, way too much. ... You're in your 20s, single, going through life in Hollywood, you know?" he explained. "Everything is thrown at you." Moreover, his personal issues were exacerbated by his work. In particular, Efron had difficulties filming "Neighbors" due to the non-stop partying after filming, which exposed him to vice at every corner. He began attending AA meetings and also saw a therapist to treat his issues. "I think it's changed my life," he said. "I'm much more comfortable in my own skin." However, he also acknowledged that his substance misuse was "a never-ending struggle." Per USA Today, Efron has been sober since 2014.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

His cousin died of cancer young

A long time supporter of cancer charities, Zac Efron appeared in a video for Stand Up To Cancer in 2010. Like so many others, the actor has a deeply personal connection to cancer. A year before he starred in the charity video, his cousin, Emily Hobson, was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, per Santa Clarita Magazine. According to a 2018 study, Ewing Sarcoma is an extremely aggressive type of bone cancer affecting children and adolescents. Hobson underwent chemotherapy, but the treatments left her in financial difficulty. Subsequently, a charity gala was held in her honor, with Efron making an appearance at the event.

In 2012, Efron revealed on Twitter that it was Hobson, who was in remission from cancer at the time, who helped him get started in the entertainment industry. Tragically, she died just one year later, aged 28. According to her obituary in Santa Clarita Magazine, she was a film student who devoted her final years to running a support group for fellow cancer patients. 

On Instagram, Efron paid tribute to his late cousin, revealing that he and Hobson shared the same birthday, accompanied by an adorable snap of the duo as children. "Happy birthday to my cousin and best friend, Emily, who passed away from cancer 2 years ago – she was 28 like me. We share the same birthday and this day is forever ours," he wrote, urging his followers that his only birthday wish was for them to donate to Stand Up To Cancer.

The scariest moment of Zac Efron's life

It is, unfortunately, not uncommon for celebs to get into epic fights in public. In Zac Efron's case, his public blowout was a source of immense humiliation. The actor generated headlines when he got into a violent brawl with an unhoused man on Los Angeles' Skid Row in 2014, per TMZ. Efron reportedly threw a bottle out of his car window when he was approached by the man, who accused him of smashing the bottle in his direction. The man punched Efron in the mouth, with the actor declaring, "It was the hardest I've ever been hit in my life." Police caught a glimpse of the fight, but did not file charges against either party as it was determined to be "mutual combat."

The incident couldn't have occurred at a more inopportune moment for Efron, who was promoting "Neighbors" at the time. Accordingly, he found the publicized nature of the brawl deeply degrading, as he revealed to The Hollywood Reporter. "No matter who you are, you face challenges growing up. ... It's impossible to lead an honest and fulfilling life as a man and not make mistakes and 'fess up to them when you need to," he explained. "But it's especially humiliating when they happen to be so public and so scrutinized." 

Recalling that fateful day, he claimed that he was out with a friend when the man pulled a knife on them. They began fighting, something that Efron called "the most terrifying moment in my life."

The actor struggles with food and body image

In 2021, Zac Efron found himself at the center of gossip about his appearance when he featured in a video promoting Earth Day. Fans began speculating whether Efron had undergone plastic surgery due to his seemingly augmented jaw, per E! News. As The Independent argued at the time, the rumors highlighted a lack of sympathy for men with negative body image. 

In a 2022 Men's Health interview, Efron got real about his struggles with body image, which were precipitated by the unrealistically ripped physique he had in "Baywatch." The actor admitted he took diuretics in order to maintain his figure for the film. Moreover, he was heavily restricting food, exercising excessively, and suffered from severe insomnia as a result. "Something about that experience burned me out," he admitted. "I had a really hard time recentering. Ultimately they chalked it up to taking way too many diuretics for way too long, and it messed something up." While he acknowledged that having an impossibly ripped physique was once his dream, it made him miserable.

This marked the first time Efron openly discussed his body image issues, something he had always hinted at. In an episode of his Netflix series "Down to Earth," Efron was brought to tears when eating pasta, noting that he'd deprived his body of carbs for years. Later, he admitted (via MTV), "I gotta get out of Hollywood, dude. I'm done. It's just not a place conducive to living a long, happy, uh, mentally sound life."

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).