Experiencing a small non-frequent burst of anxiety is normal and often a healthy emotion. Like when going on a first date, giving a speech, or the first day of school. However, it becomes a disorder when it is constant and at high levels. Unfortunately, it is a very common disorder.
According to a 2007 National Comorbidity Survey conducted by the Harvard Medical School, an estimated 31.1% of adults in the United States have dealt with anxiety at some point in their lives. (1)
That is a large number of individuals experiencing anxiety disorders, and that number of course includes celebrities too. Often people think of celebrities as these perfect beings, always riding the crest of the perfect wave. Nothing can touch them; they are flawless. But their lives carry with them a unique set of anxiety-inducing circumstances, and numerous celebrities have spoken openly about their struggles.
What Does Anxiety Feel Like?
Anxiety can present itself in several forms and each of them is experienced differently. Here are some of the most common anxiety disorders, along with their symptoms:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Many individuals suffering from GAD experience intense feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety on a daily basis. Oftentimes the severity prevents them from living fully, not to mention the toll on their overall health, and their interpersonal relationships. Some may experience:
- Restlessness, or feeling on-edge often
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping problems
- Muscle tension
It is essential to notice the symptoms that come with this disorder to bring support to the ones affected by it. Demi Lovato, who has struggled with anxiety and depression, told the Huffington Post in 2015, “ There is a lack of compassion for people who have mental illness and there’s a lot of judgment. Once you make people realize that mental illness can happen to anybody — and it’s not anybody’s fault — then I think they’ll become more understanding of what mental illness really is”.
Panic disorder presents in a form of frequent and sudden panic attacks. These can be triggered by a specific situation or can happen abruptly. During a panic attack, the body faces intense physical reactions even though there is no real danger. When an individual is having a panic attack, they may feel:
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweating
- Increased heart rate
- Chest pain
- Sense of terror, fear of dying
Celebrities such as Kristen Stewart and Emma Stone talked openly about suffering panic attacks. Stone in a 2015 interview with the Wall Street Journal, talked about how acting helps her with panic attacks because she needs to be fully present. “You can’t afford to think about a million other things. You have to think about the task at hand. Acting forces me to sort of be like a Zen master: What is happening right in this moment?”, Emma said.
ABC’s Nightline co-anchor Dan Harris, who suffered a panic attack while on the air in 2004, is an advocate of using meditation to overcome panic attacks. In 2014, he wrote the book “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story”, which became a New York Times bestseller. The same year he said “Meditation is a doable, realistic, scientifically researched way to get significantly happier, calmer, and nicer.”
Social Anxiety Disorder (previously called social phobia)
This type of anxiety disorder shows when an individual affected by it has an intense feeling of fear and experiences anxiety symptoms when facing social situations. The feeling may be very strong in social situations like meeting new people, job interviews, dating, and performing in public. (2)
Fifteen time Grammy Award winner Adele talked about her anxiety attacks, indicating that sometimes the anxiety episodes were so intense that she would vomit right before a performance. She mentioned that what helped her in dealing with the anxiety is applying humor to the situation. “Also, when I get nervous, I try to bust jokes. It does work.” she added.
Treatments for Dealing with Anxiety
A combination of psychotherapy and medication is commonly used in the treatment of anxiety. However, it is important that an individual affected by an anxiety disorder consult a doctor to choose the best treatment for them.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works by giving people the tools to help them deal with anxiety. CBT teaches coping mechanisms in how to think, behave and react when confronted with situations that cause anxiety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been known to aid people with a social anxiety disorder by stimulating the development of social skills.
CBT can be done in group and individual settings. Sometimes it is used in combination with guided imagery or relaxation exercises.
In 2015, bestselling author John Green talked on Reddit about how he used CBT to help him deal with anxiety. He said “I just have to integrate it into my life, as I would for any chronic illness. That can be difficult during periods like this one where work stuff is extremely public and extremely intense, but it helps tremendously that this is something I’m choosing to do,”.
Although anxiety disorders are not cured by using medication, it certainly can help to deal with anxiety symptoms. Medication to treat anxiety may be prescribed by a psychiatrist, a doctor, or in some places a psychologist who has specialized training can prescribe psychiatric medications.
The most recommended medications to ease anxiety symptoms are antidepressants, beta-blockers, and benzodiazepines. (3)
Actor Kristen Bell has talked about taking medication to deal with anxiety and depression. In an interview with the television show Off Camera, in 2016, Kristen said that her mother advised her ‘If you start to feel this way, talk to your doctor, talk to a psychologist, see how you want to help yourself,”.
Also, comedian Sara Silverman has openly spoken of her experience with medication when dealing with anxiety and finding inner strength. “The tough times, the days when you’re just a ball on the floor—they’ll pass. You’re playing the long game, and life is totally worth it.” she said in 2015 at an interview with Glamour.
Some famous stars like Ashley Benson, Lena Dunham, and Khloe Kardashian who all suffer from anxiety have expressed how exercise, body acceptance, meditation, and healthy eating have helped them in dealing with anxiety.
What Have Celebrities Said About Anxiety?
Many other celebrities have shared their struggles with mental illness, and this helps to humanize them for their fans. It helps to normalize these issues for everyone, regardless of stardom status.
As LeAnn Rimes, a country-pop star said before entering treatment for her anxiety and stress, “All the things in my life will be there when I get out, but you know what? I’m hoping they’re not going to affect me as much. I’ll have the tools to know how to deal with them.”
For the talented actress Jennifer Lawrence, dealing with anxiety is about acceptance and putting things in perspective. In the case of NBA professional basketball player Royce White, it is all about being honest with yourself and acknowledging that help is needed. “You can’t just take Tylenol to deal with it. Being able to be level with people, being honest about your problem – that is a huge help.”, he commented in an interview with Men’s Journal in 2013.
One big personality that went beyond just sharing about her battle with anxiety and depression, is the “Poker Face” singer Lady Gaga. She launched the Born this Way Foundation to help people with mental illness.
If you struggle with anxiety, please know that you are not alone. There are resources out there to help you, and there are others who struggle too… some of whom may even be heroes of yours.
|1.||Any anxiety disorder. Nih.gov. Accessed February 13, 2021. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml|
|2.||Social anxiety disorder: More than just shyness. Nih.gov. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/social-anxiety-disorder-more-than-just-shyness/index.shtml|
|3.||Nielsen S. Benzodiazepines. Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2017;34:141-159. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3375401/|