mental health

25 Famous Women on Dealing With Anxiety and Depression

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Millions of people worldwide have anxiety disorders, and women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed in their lifetime. That’s also true of depression. Due to the stigma attached to mental-health issues, countless individuals suffer in silence — but going public can be the first step toward healing. Below, we’ve rounded up sage advice from famous women who have lived through low moments and aren’t afraid to talk about it.

Read on to hear from Kristen Bell, Summer Walker, Kerry Washington, and others on coping mechanisms, the importance of asking for and accepting help, and the necessity of speaking out about anxiety and depression.

1. Chika
“I’ve seen so much pain and so much realness in other people. Exposing my own almost feels like second nature. It doesn’t feel like if I say ‘Hey, I’ve been suicidal before’ someone could use that against me. I don’t feel vulnerable when I’m saying these things … It almost feels like having a superpower — of having iron just on me. Nothing penetrates that.” — the Cut, September 2020

2. Mara Wilson
“I’ve basically been an anxious person all my life. I have suffered from anxiety, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I’ve dealt with depression. I’ve been dealing with it for a very long time, for most of my life. I was an anxious kid and I’m still kind of an anxious adult. I wish somebody had told me that it’s okay to be anxious, that you don’t have to fight it. That, in fact, fighting it is the thing that makes it worse. That pushing it away is really what it is — it’s the fear of fear. And that, you know, it’s okay to be depressed. And also … that it’s not a romantic thing. You don’t have to be depressed. You don’t have to suffer with it. You can get help. You can reach out. Also, sort of on the flip side of that, being anxious and fighting that anxiety is actually just going to make it worse. I wish that I had fought my depression and not fought my anxiety as much. When you face anxiety, when you realize what it is, when you understand that it’s just this false alarm in your body, then you can work with it. Then you can overcome it.” — Project UROK, April 2015

3. Zendaya
“I used to struggle with anxiety pretty bad. It only happened when I sang live, not when I danced or did any other live performances, and it stemmed from a bad experience I had while singing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2013. It wasn’t my best performance, and I’ve never let myself live that down. I had mad anxiety ever since that … I did figure out how to bury my anxiety, though. I’ve tried focusing my energy on other things, like making movies. And I took my time and slowly built my confidence back up before I went back out onstage to sing live,” she wrote. “Luckily, when I performed ‘Let Me Love You’ with Mario on the show Greatest Hits last year, it went really well. It was still a little nerve-racking, but it was cool. Sometimes you just have to take a step back so things stop stressin’ you.” — on her app, February 2017

4. Summer Walker
After cutting her first and last tour short in November 2019: “Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to finish this tour because it doesn’t really coexist with my social anxiety and my introverted personality. But I really hope that people understand and respect that at the end of the day that I’m a person — I have feelings, I get tired, I get sad, and it’s just a lot … I want to give you all what I can, so I’m going to keep making music and I might do a few shows, but I can’t finish.” — Instagram, 2019

5. Gloria Steinem
“I myself cried when I got angry, then became unable to explain why I was angry in the first place. Later I would discover this was endemic among female human beings. Anger is supposed to be ‘unfeminine’ so we suppress it — until it overflows. I could see that not speaking up made my mother feel worse. This was my first hint of the truism that depression is anger turned inward; thus women are twice as likely to be depressed.” — My Life on the Road, October 2015

6. Aparna Nancherla
“I would say depression is one of those things that sublets space in your head, so no matter how far away you get away from it, it exists as a somewhat permanent houseguest. So while it can significantly impede my productivity and mood, it also very much contributes to my point-of-view and sense of humor. … One of the unexpected positives of depression for a lifelong perfectionist is you worry less about failure, in that showing up or engaging, regardless of quality, can be an accomplishment in and of itself.” — Splitsider, March 2016

7. Emma Stone
“Before I went into second grade, I had my first panic attack. It was really, really terrifying and overwhelming; I was over at a friend’s house, and all of a sudden I was absolutely convinced the house was on fire and it was going to burn down. I was just sitting in her bedroom, and obviously the house wasn’t on fire — but there was nothing in me that didn’t think we weren’t going to die. I couldn’t go to friends’ houses; I had deep separation anxiety with my mom … We truly thought I wasn’t going to be able to move out of the house and move away ever. How would I go to college? How would I do any of this if I couldn’t be at a friend’s house for five minutes? … [It’s] healing to just talk about it and own it and realize that this is something that is part of me, but it is not who I am. And if that can help anybody … if I can do anything to say ‘Hey, I get it, and I’m there with you, and you can still get out there and achieve dreams and form really great relationships and connections,’ then I hope I’m able to do that.” — Child Mind Institute fireside chat, October 2018

8. Amy Tan
“Whatever it is that causes it, I think it’s just always going to be there. Part of it is having had a suicidal mother and maybe the things that have happened in my life … Like a lot of people, I had a resistance [to taking antidepressants], thinking that emotional or mental problems are things that you can deal with other than through medication. I also didn’t want anything to affect me mentally. But what a difference! And I thought, ‘Boy, what a different childhood I might have had had my mother taken antidepressants.’” — Time, March 2001

9. Princess Diana
“I was unwell with post-natal depression, which no one ever discusses … and that in itself was a bit of a difficult time. You’d wake up in the morning feeling you didn’t want to get out of bed, you felt misunderstood, and just very, very low in yourself … Maybe I was the first person ever to be in this family who ever had depression or was ever openly tearful. And obviously that was daunting, because if you’ve never seen it before how do you support it? … It gave everybody a wonderful new label — Diana’s unstable and Diana’s mentally unbalanced. And unfortunately that seems to have stuck on and off over the years.

“When no one listens to you, or you feel no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen. For instance you have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you’re in the media all the time you’ve got enough attention, inverted commas. But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, princess of Wales. So yes, I did inflict upon myself. I didn’t like myself, I was ashamed because I couldn’t cope with the pressures.” — BBC1 Panorama Interview, 1995

10. Kristen Bell
“When I was 18, [my mom] said, ‘If you start to feel like you are twisting things around you, and you start to feel like there is no sunlight around you, and you are paralyzed with fear, this is what it is and here’s how you can help yourself.’ And I’ve always had a really open and honest dialogue about that, especially with my mom, which I’m so grateful for. Because you have to be able to cope with it. I mean, I present that very cheery bubbly person, but I also do a lot of work, I do a lot of introspective work and I check in with myself when I need to exercise and I got on a prescription when I was really young to help with my anxiety and depression and I still take it today. And I have no shame in that because my mom had said if you start to feel this way, talk to your doctor, talk to a psychologist and see how you want to help yourself. And if you do decide to go on a prescription to help yourself, understand that the world wants to shame you for that, but in the medical community, you would never deny a diabetic his insulin. Ever. But for some reason, when someone needs a serotonin inhibitor, they’re immediately crazy or something. And I don’t know, it’s a very interesting double standard that I often don’t have the ability to talk about but I certainly feel no shame about.” — Off Camera With Sam Jones, April 2016

11. Elizabeth Gilbert
“When you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it’s time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore. … I took on my depression like it was the fight of my life, which, of course, it was. … I tried so hard to fight the endless sobbing. I remember asking myself one night, while I was curled up in the same old corner of my same old couch in tears yet again over the same old repetition of sorrowful thoughts, ‘Is there anything about this scene you can change, Liz?’ And all I could think to do was stand up, while still sobbing, and try to balance on one foot in the middle of the living room. Just to prove that — while I couldn’t stop the tears or change my dismal interior dialogue — I was not yet totally out of control: at least I could cry hysterically while balanced on one foot.” — Eat, Pray, Love, February 2006

12. Susan Sontag
“Depression is melancholy minus its charms — the animation, the fits.” — Illness As Metaphor, 1978

13. Miley Cyrus
“[Depression]’s more of an issue than people really want to talk about. Because people don’t know how to talk about being depressed — that it’s totally okay to feel sad. I went through a time where I was really depressed. Like, I locked myself in my room and my dad had to break my door down. It was a lot to do with, like, I had really bad skin, and I felt really bullied because of that. But I never was depressed because of the way someone else made me feel, I just was depressed. And every person can benefit from talking to somebody. I’m the most antimedication person, but some people need medicine, and there was a time where I needed some too. So many people look at [my depression] as me being ungrateful, but that is not it — I can’t help it. There’s not much that I’m closed off about, and the universe gave me all that so I could help people feel like they don’t have to be something they’re not or feel like they have to fake happy. There’s nothing worse than being fake happy.” — Elle, April 2014

14. Elizabeth Wurtzel
“That’s the thing I want to make clear about depression: It’s got nothing at all to do with life. In the course of life, there is sadness and pain and sorrow, all of which, in their right time and season, are normal — unpleasant, but normal. Depression is an altogether different zone because it involves a complete absence: absence of affect, absence of feeling, absence of response, absence of interest. The pain you feel in the course of a major clinical depression is an attempt on nature’s part (nature, after all, abhors a vacuum) to fill up the empty space. But for all intents and purposes, the deeply depressed are just the walking, waking dead.” — Prozac Nation, 1994

15. Lena Dunham
“I feel like there’s this glamour, when you look at like a Tennessee Williams play, where the woman who has a psychological illness is in a fur, laid out on a chaise. Whereas in reality, a woman with mental illness or a woman struggling with her psychological wellbeing is often in sweats and in a T-shirt that used to belong to her dad and is covered in food bits. … I’ve always been anxious, but I haven’t been the kind of anxious that makes you run ten miles a day and make a lot of calls on your Blackberry. I’m the kind of anxious that makes you be like, ‘I’m not going to be able to come out tonight, tomorrow night or maybe for the next 67 nights.’” — Refinery29’s RIOT series, May 2016

16. Sarah Silverman
“I first experienced depression when I was 13. I was walking off a bus from a school camping trip. The trip had been miserable: I was, sadly, a bed wetter, and I had Pampers hidden in my sleeping bag — a gigantic and shameful secret to carry. … You know how you can be fine one moment, and the next it’s, ‘Oh my God, I f—king have the flu!’? It was like that. Only this flu lasted for three years. My whole perspective changed. I went from being the class clown to not being able to see life in that casual way anymore. I couldn’t deal with being with my friends, I didn’t go to school for months, and I started having panic attacks. People use ‘panic attack’ very casually out here in Los Angeles, but I don’t think most of them really know what it is. Every breath is labored. You are dying. You are going to die. It’s terrifying. And then when the attack is over, the depression is still there. Once, my stepdad asked me, ‘What does it feel like?’ And I said, ‘It feels like I’m desperately homesick, but I’m home.’” — Glamour, October 2015

17. Kerry Washington
On seeing a therapist: “I say that publicly because I think it’s really important to take the stigma away from mental health. … My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth. I go to the dentist. So why wouldn’t I go to a shrink?” — Glamour, April 2015

18. Kristen Stewart
“Between ages 15 and 20, it was really intense. I was constantly anxious. I was kind of a control freak. If I didn’t know how something was going to turn out, I would make myself ill, or just be locked up or inhibited in a way that was really debilitating … At one point, you just let go and give yourself to your life. I have finally managed that and I get so much more out of life. I’ve lived hard for such a young person, and I’ve done that to myself — but I’ve come out the other end not hardened but strong. I have an ability to persevere that I didn’t have before. It’s like when you fall on your face so hard and the next time, you’re like, Yeah, so? I’ve fallen on my face before.” — Marie Claire, August 2015

19. Cara Delevingne
“This is something I haven’t been open about, but it’s a huge part of who I am. All of a sudden I was hit with a massive wave of depression and anxiety and self-hatred, where the feelings were so painful that I would slam my head against a tree to try to knock myself out. I never cut, but I’d scratch myself to the point of bleeding. I just wanted to dematerialize and have someone sweep me away … I thought that if I wanted to act, I’d need to finish school, but I got so I couldn’t wake up in the morning. The worst thing was that I knew I was a lucky girl, and the fact that you would rather be dead … you just feel so guilty for those feelings, and it’s this vicious circle. Like, how dare I feel that way? So you just attack yourself some more.” — Vogue, July 2015

20. bell hooks
“Isolation and loneliness are central causes of depression and despair. Yet they are the outcome of life in a culture where things matter more than people. Materialism creates a world of narcissism in which the focus of life is solely on acquisition and consumption. A culture of narcissism is not a place where love can flourish.” — All About Love: New Visions, January 2001

21. Ariana Grande
“I’ve been open in my art and open in my DMs and my conversations with my fans directly, and I want to be there for them, so I share things that I think they’ll find comfort in knowing that I go through as well. But also there are a lot of things that I swallow on a daily basis that I don’t want to share with them, because they’re mine. But they know that. They can literally see it in my eyes. They know when I’m disconnected, when I’m happy, when I’m tired. It’s this weird thing we have. We’re like fucking E.T. and Elliott. I’m a person who’s been through a lot and doesn’t know what to say about any of it to myself, let alone the world. I see myself onstage as this perfectly polished, great-at-my-job entertainer, and then in situations like this I’m just this little basket-case puddle of figuring it out. I have to be the luckiest girl in the world, and the unluckiest, for sure. I’m walking this fine line between healing myself and not letting the things that I’ve gone through be picked at before I’m ready, and also celebrating the beautiful things that have happened in my life and not feeling scared that they’ll be taken away from me because trauma tells me that they will be, you know what I mean?” — Vogue, July 2019

22. Kate Moss
“I had a nervous breakdown when I was 17 or 18, when I had to go and work with Marky Mark and Herb Ritts. It didn’t feel like me at all. I felt really bad about straddling this buff guy. I didn’t like it. I couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks. I thought I was going to die. I went to the doctor, and he said, ‘I’ll give you some Valium,’ and Francesca Sorrenti, thank God, said, ‘You’re not taking that.’ It was just anxiety. Nobody takes care of you mentally. There’s a massive pressure to do what you have to do. I was really little, and I was going to work with Steven Meisel. It was just really weird — a stretch limo coming to pick you up from work. I didn’t like it. But it was work, and I had to do it.” — Vanity Fair, October 2012

23. Tavi Gevinson
“There are a lot of different kinds of sadness, but the two broadest categories are the kind that can be beautiful and cathartic and you’re crying and listening to music and it feels kind of good actually, and the kind where it just sucks and you don’t want to get out of bed and you feel completely trapped. And my methods for both are different. For the beautiful one I just try to see it for what it is, and use it to get out a good cry and enjoy an album or whatever, or spoon with a friend. And with the other kind … the good thing is that these days, nothing feels like the end of the world anymore, whereas in the earlier years of high school, and throughout middle school — and elementary school, actually — that stuff was really hard.” — Rookie, January 2014

24. Chrissy Teigen
“I had everything I needed to be happy. And yet, for much of the last year, I felt unhappy. What basically everyone around me — but me — knew up until December was this: I have postpartum depression. How can I feel this way when everything is so great? … Before, when I entered a room I had a presence: head high, shoulders back, big smile. Suddenly I had become this person whose shoulders would cower underneath her chin. I would keep my hands on my belly and try to make myself as small as possible. During that time my bones hurt to the core. I had to go to the hospital; the back pain was so overwhelming. I felt like I was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy: These kids were around me, asking questions. Maybe it was a kidney infection? No one could figure it out. I saw rheumatoid doctors for the wrist pain; we thought it might be rheumatoid arthritis. I felt nauseated all the time, so I saw a GI doctor. I wondered: Am I making this all up? Is this pain even real anymore?” Glamour, March 2017

25. Cheryl Strayed
“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” — Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar, July 2012

25 Famous Women on Dealing With Anxiety and Depression