5 Celebrities Who Suffer From Severe Anxiety, and How They Cope

There is an interesting discussion taking place regarding anxiety and depression currently. A public one. In the last few years, it seems as though anyone and everyone has been coming out of the ‘disorder closet’ regarding their particular issues and phobias, and this, of course, is a very good thing. It’s humans not being afraid to discuss being human.

It’s also important because anxiety and other related disorders are often misunderstood, even by the sufferers themselves, so bringing the topic to light in the media and on the Internet only helps those who may not be able to comprehend the full extent of their feelings and behaviours.

By definition, the American Psychological Association describes anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” These symptoms are also normally recurring, meaning that people who suffer from anxiety are more likely to face similar situations in the future. The physical symptoms of anxiety include stomach aches, an increased heart rate, and shortness of breath.

And, it turns out, it is very, very common. More people than not experience it to some degree, and in one form or another. For instance, it is normal for people under a lot of work-related stress to suffer from it, and it will dependably rear its nervous head before any type of performance or public speaking. It also has physiological causes as well, such as people travelling in high altitude regions facing bouts of it due to difficulty taking in oxygen. Its different manifestations range all the way from GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and can include any number of combinations of different disorders in between. It is often closely associated with depressive disorders. 

Public understanding of anxiety is exceptionally important if it is to be properly managed. Being aware of one’s own anxiety is crucial in learning how to mitigate or prevent the disorder’s effects from impinging on daily life, and an understanding of how it effects others is just as crucial. This is why the public conversation regarding it is so important, particularly the transparency in celebrity circles. In a world that worships image, it takes a particular type of person to step forward and admit that they are far from perfect. Here are 5 of them. 

1) Johnny Depp

Even though he is recognized as one of the biggest public figures in Hollywood, Johnny Depp has struggled with social anxiety through his entire career. He can often be seen behaving uncomfortably when placed under the spotlight in an interview or a talk show, and has suffered panic attacks for years. Regardless, none of this has stopped him from being recognized as one of the world’s best and highest-paid actors.

To help reduce the symptoms of his anxiety, Depp regularly seeks therapy where he is given professional guidance for alleviating the effects of his disorder. He even uses these therapy sessions while on set, and this helps him stay focused during long movie shoots. When asked about being a celebrity and being constantly placed in the public eye, Depp said: “I’m shy, paranoid, whatever word you want to use. I hate fame. I’ve done everything I can to avoid it.” For an A-list actor, he certainly knows how to not let anxiety interfere with his endless list of obligations.

2) Howie Mandel

Perhaps most well known as the host of the game show, Deal or No Deal, Howie Mandel suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), an anxiety disorder characterized by repetitive, ritualistic behaviours that interfere with everyday life. During his tenure on Deal or No Deal, Mandel can be seen exchanging fist bumps with contestants instead of greeting them with handshakes because of his fear of germs as a result of his OCD. He even cites his shaved head as an attempt to make him feel cleaner. 

Having suffered from OCD since childhood, Mandel wasn’t able to seek treatment until he was an adult. He said that his symptoms couldn’t be explained when he was growing up in the 1960s, but he has since worked to reduce the stigma attached to anxiety and mental health. Speaking about the peculiarities of his anxiety, Mandel said, “I’ve always felt a little bit different, and I always knew I wasn’t as comfortable with life as everybody else seemed to be.” Now, Mandel consults with a psychiatrist to deal with his OCD, and has even campaigned to reach out to others that face similar issues.

3) Emma Stone

Despite being one of the most recognizable young stars on the red carpet, Emma Stone has spoken out about her experiences with anxiety and panic attacks quite openly. She documented her first time suffering from a panic attack by saying, “I was sitting in my friend’s house, and I thought the house was burning down. I called my mom and she brought me home, and for the next three years it just would not stop.”

When asked about dealing with her anxiety, Stone cites acting as an outlet for suppressing the negative emotions that trigger her panic attacks. Upon seeking consultation from a therapist, Stone began to perform at a local theatre, where she was able to find solace from her symptoms. For Stone, acting was a way for her to replace negative thoughts with playing a character. “Acting forces me to sort of be like a Zen master: What is happening right in this moment?” she said.

4) Jennifer Lawrence

At only 26 years old, Jennifer Lawrence has established herself as a one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood. Her films have grossed over $5 billion USD worldwide, and her accolades span a country mile. But there’s one attribute that sticks out in her impressive résumé. Lawrence suffers from anxiety, and she has spoken unequivocally about ‘being different’ as a child. “When my mother told me about my childhood, she always told me that there was a light in me, a spark that inspired me constantly. When I started school, the light went out. It was never known what it was, a kind of social anxiety.”

As with Stone, Lawrence credits her venture into acting as a cure for her anxiety. While she’s sought clinical help in the past, she found that the treatment did little to alleviate her symptoms. However, when she began to immerse herself in theatre, her mother noticed that she was no longer affected by the same jitters that caused her uneasiness in social situations. For Lawrence, acting became a platform for her to showcase her true potential as an entertainer, and overcoming the eccentricities that she had when battling anxiety.

5) Adele

While Adele may currently be the most famous person in the universe, she is far from comfortable with it. Along with speaking frankly about her weight and her bad habits of the past, such as smoking and drinking, she has also been quite open about her terror of performing in front of audiences, saying, “I have anxiety attacks, constant panicking on stage, my heart feels like it’s going to explode because I never feel like I’m going to deliver, ever.”

It is a fate often suffered by the best artists, as they put so much pressure on themselves to deliver perfect results for their audience. So how does she deal with it? Oddly enough, she’s created an alter ego named Sasha Carter – an amalgamation of Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce and June Carter. From Rolling Stone:

“I was about to meet Beyoncé,” she says, “and I had a full-blown anxiety attack. Then she popped in looking gorgeous, and said, ‘You’re amazing! When I listen to you I feel like I’m listening to God.’ Can you believe she said that?” Later, “I went out on the balcony crying hysterically, and I said, ‘What would Sasha Fierce do?’ That’s when Sasha Carter was born.”

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Hutton is a freelance writer. He has experience writing in academic, business, and professional contexts.