By Tal Haslam
There are #noexceptions to who is affected by anxiety and depression — including celebrities.
Public figures have a lot to lose by speaking out about their mental health struggles — which makes it even more inspiring when they do. For example, as Katrina Gay wrote for the National Alliance on Mental Health, actors can be blacklisted or denied parts if they have a known mental illness, and as a result, many have stayed silent in the past.
But times are changing, the stigma is breaking, and more and more well known figures are publicly sharing their experiences with depression and anxiety. Their example is helping to lead the way and normalize discussions of the mental health issues that affect tens of millions of Americans.
Here’s a list of just a few of the celebrities who have shared their perspectives and experiences with depression and anxiety.
1. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is a grammy-winning musician and performer whose accomplishments range from sold-out stadiums to crossover Oscar nominations. However, she is living proof that depression and anxiety affect everyone as she is open about her daily battles with these illnesses. She is an advocate for those who struggle in a similar way.
“I’ve suffered through depression and anxiety my entire life. I still suffer with it every single day,” she shared in a public address.
2. Michael Phelps
Hailed as “the greatest Olympian of all time” by Sports Illustrated Magazine, Michael Phelps is an icon for achievement and extreme self-discipline. Despite his rigorous work ethic, he has felt defeated by his crippling battle with depression and tells fellow sufferers its OK to ask for help.
“I just didn’t like who I was. I was angry or depressed or upset, I would almost ignore it. So I would shove it even farther down — so I wouldn’t have to deal with it, so I never had to talk about it. Once I opened up about that, and things that I had kept inside of me for so many years, I then found that life was a lot easier, I got to the point where, I understood that it’s OK to not be OK,” he shared in the mental health documentary “Angst.”
3. J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling is the first author to ever become a billionaire, and is credited with reinvigorating an entire generation’s passion for reading.
But did you know the concept of soul-sucking “dementors” in Harry Potter came from her personal experience with extreme depression? She is living proof that depression and anxiety can attack anyone’s life, no matter how magical. Rowling first described the link between dementors and depression on Twitter, and continues to reach out to fans and encourage them to conquer their personal “dementors” or mental illnesses.
Celebrated female African-American icon Oprah Winfrey is well acquainted with success in media and business, and she is one of the highest-profile activists in the modern world. Though she initially shrugged off her depression as natural loneliness and occasional anxiety, it persisted and began to damage her self-perception.
“I actually started to think, maybe I really am depressed. Because it’s more than ‘I feel bad about this.’ I felt like I was behind a veil,” she said in an interview with Vogue Magazine.
Oprah’s latest project is executive-producing a mental health docuseries with Prince Harry on Mental Fitness.
5. Dan Reynolds
The frontman for alternative rock band Imagine Dragons has been open with the media about his personal challenges with severe depression, even though his songs rack up billions of streams on Spotify. He is still searching for alternative treatments to improve his mental health.
“That’s a scary thing when you get everything that you could have wanted but yet you still feel an emptiness because, at that point, you think, ‘Oh man, if this doesn’t fill it, then I don’t know where to look anymore,” he told an Australian news outlet.
6. Cara Delevingne
The world famous actress and model is surrounded by accolades and adoring fans, but she has been honest with the media about how even as a widely celebrated personality, depression can make her feel alone and disconnected from the world.
“I thought that I was completely alone. I also realized how lucky I was, and what a wonderful family and wonderful friends I had, but that didn’t matter. I wanted the world to swallow me up, and nothing seemed better to me than death,” she shared in an interview with Rupert Everett.
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The “Hello” singer has opened up in interviews about her anxious and depressed episodes, as well as her intense postpartum depression. She hopes to de-stigmatize the psychological trauma of pregnancy and promote mental wellness.
"I can slip in and out of [depression] quite easily," Adele told Vanity Fair. "I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son, and it frightened me," she said. "I didn't talk to anyone about it. I was very reluctant … Four of my friends felt the same way I did, and everyone was too embarrassed to talk about it."
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8. Emma Stone
Known for her television roles and blockbuster movie performances, Emma Stone is living out her childhood dream of being a successful actress. However, her path has been far from smooth as she has battled anxiety the majority of her life. She is an advocate for aggressive treatment methods.
On The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, she admitted, "I was a very, very, very anxious child and I had a lot of panic attacks," she said. “I benefited in a big way from therapy."
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