Recipient of two Annie Awards for his role as Frozen’s Olaf and a Tony Award for “Best Actor in a Musical,” Josh Gad is famous for his acting talent and distinctive voice. Recently, he has taken on a new and different role: speaking up for the one in five children suffering with mental health and learning disorders in an awareness campaign launched by the Child Mind Institute. The #myyoungerself campaign features actors, athletes, celebrities, and other influencers who have opened up about their personal mental health struggles to fight the “stigma and shame” often associated with mental health and learning disorders (anxiety, depression, bipolar, dyslexia, OCD, bulimia, ADHD, autism, etc…).
Gad, who suffers from general anxiety disorder (GAD), sought professional help for the symptoms he began to experience as a young adult, and he encourages others to do the same. When a mental health crisis strikes, a person may not understand that they have a diagnosable–and treatable–condition. Gad’s anxiety was extreme and he wants young adults to know that they’re not alone and don’t need to feel ashamed.
Overview of Josh Gad’s Career
One would be hard-pressed to find a more versatile actor working today than Josh Gad. Gad, who was born in Florida in 1981, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama from Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Arts in 2003. By 2005, Gad began landing roles on television shows such as “ER” and “Back to You.” Roles in films including “Crossing Over,” “Watching the Detectives,” and “Love & Other Drugs” soon followed. In 2010, Gad landed a voice role as Banana Dog in the film “Marmaduke.” From there, a wave of diverse roles followed.
Of course, after millions of children fell in love with his voice as the character of Olaf in Disney’s Frozen, his fame really took off. Gad won awards for his portrayal of the summer-loving Snowman and delighted young fans again when he portrayed Le Fou in Beauty and the Beast. Gad is equally comfortable on the stage, as evidenced by his role in “The Book of Mormon,” which won him a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. Gad’s diverse portfolio also includes roles in:
- “Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express”
- “A Dog’s Purpose”
- “The Wedding Ringer”
- “The Angry Birds Movie”
- “Ice Age: Continental Drift”
- “Phineas and Ferb”
- “Star Wars Rebels”
- “South Park”
Gad has also lent his voice to video games and is currently working on the film “Artemis Fowl.”
Josh Gad’s Struggles with GAD
Gad recently opened up about his experiences with a generalized anxiety disorder in a video made for the Child Mind Institute’s #myyoungerself campaign. The campaign aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and learning disorders. Gad revealed his struggles in a video for the series. In it, Gad explained his first experience with anxiety and panic: “So when I was about 20 years old in college, I went through a period of extreme anxiety, didn’t understand what was happening to me, thought that I was having a heart attack.”
Gad went on to explain that he also experienced bouts of extreme sadness and sometimes felt so anxious that he couldn’t breathe. He then decided to talk to a psychologist and psychiatrist about what he was experiencing and discovered the name for his condition: “generalized anxiety disorder.”
What Is General Anxiety Disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by symptoms such as:
- Persistent worrying
- Overthinking plans
- Focusing on worst-case scenarios
- Worrying about outcomes that are out of proportion to actual problems
- Feeling unable to relax
- Feeling unable to let go of worry
- Having trouble sleeping
Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million adults in the U.S. However, many anxiety conditions are highly treatable, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Unfortunately, less than half of those who suffer get the medical help they need. Gad believes that seeking medical help saved his life and also enabled him to pursue his career and do what he loves to do.
Extreme anxiety, (as with other types of mental health disorders), can be debilitating. Gad, who was a highly motivated student at the time of his first major episode with anxiety, struggled to understand what was happening to him. It was only after he explained his symptoms to mental health professionals that he got the help he needed to manage his anxiety.
It’s Important When Celebrities Speak Out
As a college student, Gad was unaware that he was suffering from a very common, treatable mental health condition. The #myyoungerself campaign features celebrities speaking out about their mental health and learning disabilities as if they were talking to their younger self (even as they are also speaking to other young people).
Other celebrities taking part in the Child Mind Institute’s awareness campaign include: Rick Springfield, Julianne Hough, Sugar Ray Leonard, Gillian Anderson, Ray Romano, Zoe Saldana, Jim Gaffigan, Sarah Silverman, Gabrielle Union, AJ Mendez, Kristen Bell, Stephen Fry, and Michael Phelps to name a few. The campaign reveals that mental health and learning conditions affect people from all walks of life. They affect people regardless of income level, race, education level, religion, and so forth.
Many celebrities and entertainers like Josh Gad have used their fame as a platform for encouraging others to seek medical help when they need it. Knowing that many with mental health disorders do not seek help for the symptoms they’re experiencing, the Child Mind Institute tapped a myriad of influencers to help it raise awareness and convince those who need help to ask for it.
Gad is only 37 and has achieved tremendous success in his young life. He also has a wife and two daughters. Anyone looking at his life from the outside might be tempted to think that he has it all. Like many celebs, he does have a lot of success, but he also has GAD. The actor attributes his career success to his willingness to seek help for a mental health crisis that he didn’t understand. He hopes that others struggling with similar mental health concerns will also reach out for medical care that can save their lives and futures, too.