Abdul blames eccentric behavior on illness. After years of chronic pain suffered in various vehicle accidents, the ''Idol'' judge says she has finally been properly diagnosed and treated

By Gary Susman
Updated April 21, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
Paula Abdul: Luis Martinez/AP

Paula Abdul wants you to know that, if you spot her on American Idol dancing or interrupting Simon or doing something else spontaneous or offbeat, it’s just because she’s happy not to be in pain anymore. She told People magazine, in the cover story of the upcoming issue, that she’s never been addicted to drugs, but she has finally been treated with a prescription drug that relieves the chronic pain from which she’s suffered for 25 years. She told the magazine that it was only last year that she was finally diagnosed with a rare neurological ailment called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, a disease that reportedly affects as many as 1 million Americans, most of them women.

Abdul said she’s suffered chronic pain since a cheerleading accident at age 17 left her neck with an injured disc. In the 1980s and early ’90s, she said, she endured ”a couple of car accidents” and a plane crash that led to seizures, bulimia, and depression. She underwent 12 surgeries but found that most pain medication left her so ”loopy” that she chose to tough it out without them. She said the pain is what ultimately kept her from performing and led to her long absence from the limelight for much of the ’90s. Last year, however, she was diagnosed with her ailment, also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, and she began taking Enbrel, a drug usually prescribed to treat rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

She told People she hid her condition from her fellow Idol judges but decided to speak out because of rumors that she was an addict. ”It was getting ugly with the lies people were saying,” Abdul told Entertainment Tonight. ”It was time to set the record straight. I want America to know that I have never been addicted to anything, no chemical dependency, nothing for recreational purposes.” As for her Idol behavior, she told People, ”I’m dancing for joy at the fact that not even a year ago I was in so much pain I could barely get up.”