6 Actors Who Have Spoken About Living With Anxiety (And The Tools They Use)

 Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone and Chris Evans among actors who have spoken out about anxiety
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Real talk, living with anxiety can often feel incredibly lonely when one is dealing with it day to day. Like many mental health topics, anxiety has long been stigmatized across the world and relatively undiscussed by the public. So when big name actors like Emma Stone, or Ryan Reynolds and Chris Evans open up about dealing with anxiety themselves, it not only can make one feel less alone about the whole thing, it’s also a step in the right direction for us as a society coming to terms with how normal and OK it is to live, struggle with, and overcome anxiety.

The fact of the matter is that having anxiety is increasingly becoming known as a common experience among people. Anxiety disorders are reportedly the most common illness in the U.S. and reportedly affect 40 million adults every year, per Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Famed actors of the Hollywood community have been more open about not only having anxiety, but the unique tools they have turned to help soothe the uncomfortable feeling of nervousness and worry that can become vastly overwhelming to people. Here are some of their stories.

Emma Stone as Mia in La La Land
Emma Stone as Mia in La La Land

Emma Stone Goes To Therapy And Meditates

I’ve always admired La La Land Oscar winner Emma Stone for getting real about her anxiety, which she has spoken about for over a decade. Back in 2017, when she was on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, she shared a drawing she created of herself with a little green monster and big letters that read “I am bigger than my anxiety!” while she was in therapy as a nine-year-old. She said then she was a “very anxious child” who had a lot of panic attacks. The following year, she recalled her first panic attack at a Child Mind Institute event (via Glamour), saying this:

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.

Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear that can trigger severe physical reactions even though there is no clear and present danger, per Mayo Clinic. Stone has also shared that she was in therapy from the ages of 8 to 10 and often “could not leave” her mother’s side. When speaking about how she continues to live with anxiety, she said this:

I go to a therapist, I meditate, and I talk to people very quickly now — instead of isolating, I reach out… Everyone experiences a version of anxiety or worry in their lives, and maybe we go through it in a different or more intense way for longer periods of time, but there’s nothing wrong with you.

Stone also finds it “healing” to talk about her experiences and has since realized that while anxiety is a “part of” her, it’s not who she is. She has certainly achieved so much in spite of living with anxiety throughout her life.

Ryan Reynolds in 6 Underground
Ryan Reynolds in 6 Underground

Exercise Helps Ryan Reynolds ‘Expel’ His Anxiety Demons

One Hollywood name who seems to be everywhere between his Deadpool films, various acting/producing efforts and business endeavors is Ryan Reynolds. In recent years, the celebrity has been more open about his life-long battle with anxiety. He shared this to Mr. Porter in 2018 about what helps him deal with it:

I tend to get pretty depressed and I have some issues with anxiety and things like that. [I exercise every day] otherwise, I start to get a little bummed. For me, it is more psychological. Exercise is a means of expelling those demons… I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but anxiety is also a great fuel. I mean, my God, it’s the anti-complacency pill, but it’s also something that you need to manage.

While anxiety can certainly debilitate people, Reynolds has found that living with it has kept him on his toes in his career, which can sometimes be a positive force in his life. The actor’s use of exercise to “expel” those anxiety "demons" has been backed by various studies. Per Anxiety & Depression Association of America, regular exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety for hours upon end, and with a regular schedule of it may “significantly reduce them over time.” He is currently training to return for Deadpool 3 ahead of the upcoming Marvel movie hitting theaters November 8, 2024.

Amanda Seyfried in A Mouthful of Air.
Amanda Seyfried in A Mouthful of Air.

Amanda Seyfried On Destigmatizing Medication

Mamma Mia and The Dropout actress Amanda Seyfried has also opened up throughout the years about living with anxiety along with having obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) for much of her life. Seyfried started seeing a psychiatrist in her late teens whilst she was also launching her career in Hollywood. Some of the tools the actress has cited to help her deal with anxiety (per Hope to Cope) is studying Buddhism, cognitive psychotherapy and sharing a farm with her husband and kids. Back in 2019, she told Allure that antidepressants have been helpful to her:

I’m on Lexapro, and I’ll never get off of it. I’ve been on it since I was 19, so 11 years. I’m on the lowest dose. I don’t see the point of getting off of it. Whether it’s placebo or not, I don’t want to risk it. And what are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool? A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category [from other illnesses], but I don’t think it is. It should be taken as seriously as anything else. You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there. Why do you need to prove it? If you can treat it, you treat it. I had pretty bad health anxiety that came from the OCD and thought I had a tumor in my brain. I had an MRI, and the neurologist referred me to a psychiatrist. As I get older, the compulsive thoughts and fears have diminished a lot. Knowing that a lot of my fears are not reality-based really helps.

Unfortunately, there’s still a social stigma surrounding medications and mental illness. Seyfried’s own experiences on the subject is how it's been a tool that has helped her improve her well being. Of course, the tools one turns to should be decided based on each person’s needs. Anxiety does not have a one size fits all remedy.

Chris Evans in Knives Out
Chris Evans in Knives Out

Chris Evans Practices ‘Stilling’ His Mind

The MCU’s first Captain America actor, Chris Evans, has also opened up about dealing with anxiety over the years. The actor has previously shared that he began experiencing anxiety back in 2007 and began having panic attacks while shooting the 2011 movie Puncture, per The Hollywood Reporter. Additionally, when he was initially asked to test for Steve Rogers he originally turned it down due to his mental health struggles. Obviously he came around, and in 2022, he shared that working in Hollywood on stages as big as Marvel has actually helped him overcome his anxiety, along with regularly practicing being present. In his words to MTV News:

You do have the opportunity every day to construct the reality in front of you and that starts with being present and in your own mind and understanding how to stop your mind from making noise. So, in a weird way, it's been my classroom – this acting landscape has kind of forced you to hone some ability in terms of stilling your mind. And in turn you realize that a lot of the fear that breeds anxiety, never really happens, and it’s your own making.

How does one still their mind, you might ask? Doing breathing exercises, meditation and journaling are popular ways people practice stilling their minds like Evans has been able to do over the years. He also offered his outlook on dealing with mental suffering:

It’s always about the level of perspective you’re looking at it from. From 10,000 feet up, I mean, shoot, not to be somehow morbid or cynical, but eventually, even this world will go away… This idea of kind of a permanence to your story is a fallacy. There’s this great idiom or story, proverb, whatever you want to call it, if you took a glass of water and you put a handful of salt in it, and took a sip, it would taste terrible, but if you took that same handful of salt and put in a lake and sip the lake, you wouldn’t taste the salt at all. The salt is your pain, your fear, your sadness. Be the lake, you know what I mean? Depending upon how you’re looking at the world, if you make your world small, your pain can feel loud and big. But if you recognize that you are timeless, and that your thoughts are not you, and that you’re bigger than all of it, the pain melts away.

Wise words! It’s all about framing one’s mindset oftentimes, but that certainly takes practice, too.

betty in the 1950s.
betty in the 1950s.

Lili Reinhart Lets Herself Cry

Riverdale star Lili Reinhart isn’t afraid to be honest in advocating about mental health issues, including that one time she called out Kim Kardashian for rapid weight loss for the Met Gala being an unhealthy message to the public about body image. The actress has had an over 15-year journey with anxiety and one huge takeaway she shared with On Purpose with Jay Shetty is the importance of letting herself feel her feelings in her body. As she said in the 2022 interview:

Crying is the most beautiful thing you can do… I cry all the time. I think it’s the most healthy expression of how you’re feeling. I sometimes wish I just could’ve been told, ‘You can cry. There’s no shame in that. There’s no shame in how you’re feeling’. And also you don’t always need to be justifying it.

Crying may often be stigmatized, too, but is also proven to be good for one’s health, due to the fact that it releases oxytocin and endorphins, which can help one release stress and emotional pain, per Harvard. Reinhart’s words are a good reminder to not skip cry sessions when you need them; it helps you release emotions you might be holding in!

Kristen Bell in The Woman in the House...
Kristen Bell in The Woman in the House...

Kristen Bell Keeps Things Honest With Her Feelings

Last but not least, we have to talk about Kristen Bell, who has been a huge advocate for being open about having anxiety for years and is even currently a mental health ambassador for the Hers telehealth company, which provides care for anxiety, depression, hair, birth control, and more without the need for insurance. When speaking to the partnership with People earlier this year, Bell said:

The thing that is of the highest priority to me is sharing my personal journey. Because it provides a little bit of authenticity to who I am… Prior to sharing what my struggles were with anxiety and depression, I recognized that my picture publicly was this sort of bubbly actress that probably didn't have any dark days. 'I'm feeling sad' is something you say to someone behind closed doors. And I don't think that's natural or normal. People need to know there is comfort and resources around them in all shapes and sizes.

Bell has taken it upon herself to get real about her experiences after dealing with anxiety since her college years, where she began to take medication for it and depression. While one should only talk about anxiety if they are comfortable, she has shared that being real with herself and others has improved things for her. Of course, everyone deals with anxiety at different times. Let’s end with powerful words from Bell on the topic:

Everybody's mental health journey, wellness journey is so individual. It is not one-size-fits-all. There are people with anxiety and depression that don't need medication, there are people that do, but the tools are out there. You have the ability to put as many tools inside your toolbox as you want. And having people feel empowered to take control of their mental health is incredibly important to me.

It’s great to hear these massive stars talk about dealing with anxiety, and while we see all the fruits of their successes, it’s not been without each of them finding the right tools over the years to help them live with anxiety day to day.