Maureen McCormick is best known for playing Marcia Brady on the television show The Brady Bunch. Portraying the eldest daughter of the blended family, McCormick starred as the popular and insanely beautiful Marcia from the time she was 12 until she was 17 — living out her formative years in front of millions of television viewers. 

When the show came to an end in 1974, spinoff series and made-for-TV movies soon followed, including The Brady Girls Get Married, The Brady Brides, and A Very Brady Christmas. McCormick reprised her role as the bubbly, fresh-faced character each time, but, throughout it all, no one knew that her real life was snowballing out of control behind the scenes.

Drug abuse, an eating disorder, and depression are just a few of the battles she faced, proving that her upbringing and her adult life were far more harrowing than any The Brady Bunch episode ever was. Keep reading to learn all about the tragic real-life story of Maureen McCormick.

Alleged abuse in the home

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Growing up as the youngest of four kids, McCormick suffered from anxiety due to her tumultuous family life. In a piece written for Newsweek, the child star had this to say about her childhood: “In the early ’70s, my older brother was battling a heroin addiction and my father was having an affair, both of which devastated my family.”

However, her father’s philandering ways weren’t the only issues in the McCormick household. According to the actress’ memoir, Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady And Finding My True Voice (via CBS News), her father had also been abusive.

Her real life — with all of the abuse, drug use, and dysfunction — was obviously in direct contrast from her TV life, and that caused McCormick to feel like she was hiding a deep dark secret. “As a teenager, I had no idea that few people are everything they present to the outside world,” she wrote. “Yet there I was, hiding the reality of my life behind the unreal perfection of Marcia Brady … No one suspected the fear that gnawed at me even as I lent my voice to the chorus of Bradys singing, ‘It’s a Sunshine Day.”‘

She was afraid of contracting an STD

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Speaking with Today host Meredith Vieira, McCormick gave a little more insight into her family life, revealing that her grandmother had gone insane and had later died in a mental hospital from syphilis. Her mother, Irene, had also contracted the STD while in utero.

“I thought that I had syphilis growing up my whole life. I thought that I would also go insane and end up in a mental institution. It was awful,” she said.

While detailing her life story to Newsweek, the actress said the mere thought of contracting the highly contagious infection helped her in an usual way while filming The Brady Bunch. “When I was doing those crying scenes in the show, that’s what I was thinking about,” McCormick shared.

Her mom eventually passed away in 2004 from kidney cancer, according to an interview McCormick gave to TV Guide. Speaking with the publication, she stated, “My mom had been sick for a couple of years, and I had never lost anyone really close to me until she died.”

Her mother’s death turned out to be one of the many catalysts that caused McCormick to venture down a self-destructive path.