“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.” – Emma Stone
Emma Stone is known for her award-winning acting skills, but she’s also had a lot to say about dealing with an anxiety disorder and panic attacks. The actress has made it a point to talk plainly about her mental health and how she still deals with anxiety and uses those feelings to fuel her acting.
Stone grew up in Arizona and made her acting debut on the stage for a production of The Wind in the Willows at age 11. She moved to Los Angeles and got a role in a small reality show before moving on to major films such as Superbad and Easy A. Some of her most notable roles include Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man and Mia in La La Land. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the latter and has also won a Golden Globe and other awards.
How Emma Stone’s Anxiety Affected Her Childhood and Career
Stone has said that her anxiety started when she was a child. She says, “I was sitting at a friend’s house and all of a sudden I was absolutely convinced that the house was on fire … 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 I was going to die.” This kind of experience is common in those who experience panic attacks and anxiety disorders. They’re often able to recognize mentally that what they are nervous about isn’t actually happening — or is very unlikely to happen — but that doesn’t stop the intrusive thoughts or the body’s physical reaction to that anxiety.
While Stone continued to struggle with anxiety for years after this incident, she says that eventually it actually helped her in her acting career. She notes, “The thing that haunts me to this day is useful in my job.” She channels her intense feelings into her characters and feels it’s something that’s made her a better actress in the long run.
What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
While many anxiety disorders involve an anxiety about a specific thing, generalized anxiety disorder is used when another anxiety disorder isn’t a better fit for that diagnosis. Some of the main criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder include:
- Generalized anxiety or worry most days
- Anxiety period lasting at least 6 months
- Worry is difficult or impossible to control
- At least three of the following symptoms are also present: irritability, fatigue, tense muscles, restlessness and difficulty sleeping
- Symptoms affect the quality of life of the individual, including their relationships and career
While generalized anxiety disorder mostly involves longer periods of worry and anxiety, it’s possible for those with this diagnosis to also experience panic attacks. Panic attacks are usually sudden and intense and then go away as fast as they came on. Panic attack symptoms include:
- Feeling lightheaded
- An intense feeling of dread
- Feeling out of control
- Fear of dying
- Increased heart and respiratory rates
- Tingling and numbness in the extremities
A person who’s experiencing worry and anxiety along with panic attacks will need to talk with an experienced mental health professional to determine whether they might be experiencing something like panic disorder instead of or in addition to generalized anxiety disorder.
The Importance of Celebrities Speaking Out About Mental Health
Emma Stone is just one of the many celebrities and other high-profile people who’ve recently spoken out about their struggles with anxiety, panic disorders and mental health issues in general. Chrissy Teigan, Demi Lovato and Daniel Radcliffe, among others, have all been very open about their struggles with mental health. But why does this matter?
It’s important for people in the spotlight to share their experiences with others because it can help normalize mental health and encourage others to get help. As a society, we tend to idolize celebrities and put them on a pedestal, assuming that all that money and fame means their lives are perfect. When they speak out about their struggles and how they’ve sought help through counseling, medications or treatment facilities, it can make others more comfortable talking about their struggles and trying to get help.
Overcoming Anxiety and Finding Success
While Stone began therapy as a child, she’s continued to find tools and resources to help her manage her anxiety through adulthood. She notes that some of her favorite tools are “blasting music, and just getting [the stress] out.” She also says that “any exercise at all really seems to help me, but dance is my very favorite.” Many people find that physical exertion can help calm their anxiety and settle their minds to experience less worry and fewer panic attacks.
Stone also used writing to help her deal with anxiety. She says, “I write down anything that I’m worried about — I just write and write and write. I don’t think about it, I don’t read it back, and I usually do this before bed so [these worries or anxieties] don’t interfere with my sleep. I find it’s really helpful for me to just get it all out on paper.” She eventually took this exercise even further by creating her first book as part of her therapy, titled I Am Bigger Than My Anxiety.
Stone has continued her successful acting career and wants to show others it’s possible for those who struggle with mental health to still lead full, productive lives. “I believe the people who have anxiety and depression are very, very sensitive and very, very smart,” says Stone. “Because the world is hard and scary and there’s a lot that goes on, and if you’re very attuned to it, it can be crippling. But if you don’t let it cripple you and use it for something productive, it’s like a superpower … 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,’ I hope I’m able to do that.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, it’s important to know that help is available and a better life is within your reach. Contact FHE Health today to find out more about the services we offer and how we can help.