Dealing With Anxiety – Actors and Performers

A number of actors and other performers talk about dealing with stage fright, feeling shy, or experiencing other kinds of anxiety, and sometimes related mood disorders such as depression or other mental health challenges.

Anxiety has different flavors and degrees of impact on us, and it isn’t always an experience to be immediately avoided, treated or medicated.

Of course, if anxiety is really interfering with your ability to be creative, and express your emotions and thoughts in healthy ways, you would do yourself – and other people – a favor by getting help.

Below are quotes from multiple artists, plus a list of some resources such as courses, videos and more on how to reduce anxiety.

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Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land

A Rolling Stone article says Emma Stone was “a deeply nervous kid, ill-at-ease and prone to debilitating panic attacks.”

“My brain naturally zooming 30 steps ahead to the worst-case scenario,” as she puts it.

“When I was about seven, I was convinced the house was burning down…

“At a certain point, I couldn’t go to friends’ houses anymore – I could barely get out the door to school.”

The article adds, “Gravely concerned, her parents arranged for Stone to see a therapist.”

“It helped so much,” she says. “I wrote this book called I Am Bigger Than My Anxiety that I still have: I drew a little green monster on my shoulder that speaks to me in my ear and tells me all these things that aren’t true.

“And every time I listen to it, it grows bigger. If I listen to it enough, it crushes me.

“But if I turn my head and keep doing what I’m doing – let it speak to me, but don’t give it the credit it needs – then it shrinks down and fades away.”

Emma StoneThe article continues, “Another way to shrink the monster, she discovered, was performing.”

“I started acting at this youth theater, doing improv and sketch comedy,” she says.

“You have to be present in improv, and that’s the antithesis of anxiety.”

How Emma Stone Got Her Hollywood Ending By Jonah Weiner.

Another article notes “Stone says she still gets panic attacks sometimes, but has learned to channel her feelings into her work.

“For example, in order to cope with her anxiety during the filming of The Amazing Spider-Man, she turned her attention to baking.

“I think I felt really out of control of my surroundings,” she says. “I was just baking all the time. It seemed like it made me feel, if I put these in, I’ll know what the outcome is.”

Emma Stone: I Have a History of Panic Attacks, People mag.

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Fame and social media and anxiety

Gigi HadidGigi Hadid has been part of a Victoria’s Secret runway show, won Model of the Year at the British Fashion Awards, and acted in several projects including the Taylor Swift: Bad Blood video.

But a Glamour magazine article notes that her confidence can be eroded by anxiety:

“I get anxiety before doing interviews right after something big happens. [I] feel almost suffocated by the world and the world’s opinions

“Sometimes I have to literally sit myself down and be like, You are a good person. You go into everything you do with a good heart and with good intentions.

“And sometimes you have hard days, and sometimes people judge you for things that they’re just guessing by seeing in a picture. ‘Oh, she’s a bad girlfriend because she wasn’t smiling the second she walked out the door,’ or she’s this or she’s that.

“You start to think that you’re supposed to be perfect in all of these moments.”

“I love social media, but the negative people on social media don’t realize that they’re taking away from what could be so positive…”

Gigi Hadid, Glamour articleHadid notes her anxiety may come out physically – for example, her voice shaking – a common experience for many of us who experience fear of public speaking, or even generalized anxiety.

“I always get made fun of on social media because my voice shakes.

“But if you ever hear my voice shaking it’s because of my anxiety. It’s something that [I] have to breathe through.”

The article adds, “So how does she deal with it?”

“Screaming into pillows is good,” she said with a laugh. Or I had a beach photo shoot a couple months ago, and before [I] started shooting, I walked out and just screamed to the ocean and let so much [out].”

Text and lower photo from Gigi Hadid’s Celeb Status Has Had a Serious Negative Impact on Her Mental Health By Sara Gaynes Levy, Glamour, December 8, 2016.

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Some resources on how to reduce anxiety

See more articles etc in sections further down the page, and see more products on the front page of this site.

Overcoming Performance Anxiety Course

How to Reduce Anxiety With Neurosculpting course

Emotional Health – Karla McLaren on Emotional Flow

How to Deal With Anxiety videos – the Anxiety Solutions channel.

The Creative Mind playlist: Mental Health – Emotional Health (80+ videos)

See list of supplements in article: How to reduce anxiety – Judith Orloff on Emotional Freedom.

Dealing With Stage Fright and Public Speaking Fear.

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Lady Gaga talks about her experience with depression and anxiety, and her Born This Way Foundation in a Billboard interview article:

[When you’re listening to these kids’ stories, what’s the fundamental problem?]

Lady Gaga at Superbowl 2016Depression and anxiety really link them.

“There is something in the way that we are now, with our cell phones and people are not looking at each other and not being in the moment with each other, that kids feel isolated.

“They read all of this extremely hateful language on the Internet.

“The internet…used to be a fantastic resource — but you have to sort through shit to find the good stuff.

“These kids just want to feel human, but they feel like robots. They don’t understand why they’re so sad.

“There are scientific reasons, which the foundation researches, why you feel sad when you look at your phone all day.

“I’ve suffered through depression and anxiety my entire life, I still suffer with it every single day.

“I just want these kids to know that that depth that they feel as human beings is normal. We were born that way. This modern thing, where everyone is feeling shallow and less connected? That’s not human.”

The article notes: Born This Way “has shifted its focus to peer support and preventive initiatives, including research on youth and mental health in a partnership with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and in a forthcoming collaboration with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which will be announced soon.”

From article: Lady Gaga Gets Personal About Saving Troubled Teens by Camille Dodero, Billboard 10/15/2015.

Born This Way Foundation

video: Lady Gaga on Emotional Health and How to Relieve Anxiety

“Our emotions are put in this compartment with a massive stigma around it that it is just not cool to feel. We have to make it cool to feel again.” – Lady Gaga

“On October 24, 2015, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Born This Way Foundation – created by Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, – hosted the Emotion Revolution Summit to build awareness of the critical role emotions play in young people’s learning, decision-making, academic achievement, and overall wellness.”

Stefani Germanotta – now Lady Gaga – ‘from age eleven attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart, a private all-girls Roman Catholic school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

‘She described her academic life in high school as “very dedicated, very studious, very disciplined” but also “a bit insecure”: “I used to get made fun of for being either too provocative or too eccentric, so I started to tone it down. I didn’t fit in, and I felt like a freak.

‘Gaga began playing the piano at the age of four, wrote her first piano ballad at thirteen, and started to perform at open mic nights by the age of fourteen. She performed lead roles in high school productions…’

She was ‘one of 20 students to gain early admission, at age 17, to a musical theater training conservatory at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.’

‘In addition to sharpening her songwriting skills, she composed essays and analytical papers on art, religion, social issues, and politics, including a thesis on pop artists Spencer Tunick and Damien Hirst.

‘She also auditioned for various roles and won the part of an unsuspecting diner customer for MTV’s Boiling Points, a prank reality television show.’  [Wikipedia]

Related post: Gifted, Sensitive, In Need Of Meaning: Existential Depression – Psychologists including James T. Webb and Eric Maisel note highly sensitive, creative and gifted, high ability people can be particularly vulnerable to existential depression.

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Neuropsychiatrist Richard Restak, M.D. thinks “We’re all anxious and it’s a good thing that we are. At its optimum level, anxiety can help you formulate possibilities and imagine yourself in the future.

Felicity Huffman in American Crime“When you ask yourself, Can I perform at the best level? you’re having an anxious thought, but it’s leading you to strive toward something.”

Commenting about her feelings for her best-actress Oscar nomination for “Transamerica,” Felicity Huffman said,

“I woke up in fear and anxiety – which I know is the enemy of art, and in general.”

From post: Anxiety and acting – dealing with an ‘enemy of art’.

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Alanis Morissette

Video: Alanis Morissette’s Breakdown: “I Was So Isolated” – From program: “In Deep Shift with Jonas Elrod” on The Oprah Show 03/22/15.

“At the height of her career, singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette was in the middle of an 18-month world tour, a time that was supposed to be one of the happiest of her life, and yet, she confesses, she was really struggling.”

I was so isolated,” she says. “I didn’t really even have the muscle developed of reaching out for help.”

“No matter how hard she worked, Alanis was unable to outrun her anxiety and depression. She suffered from anxiety attacks on a daily basis.”

“I remember not laughing for two years, which is such a big deal because I giggle all the time,” she says. “I just thought, ‘This can’t possibly be how people are happy to live.'”

Another Deep Shift episode: Alanis Morissette: Fame “Amplified” My Insecurities notes:

“Before becoming a celebrity, Alanis had thought that fame would improve her life.”

Fame will have you be completely blissed out and peaceful and happy and connected and connected to God and connected to everything,” she says, recalling how she felt at that time.

“The reality, Alanis says, turned out to be much different.”

“I was still left with anxiety and depression and humanity and yearning and fear and disconnection, and my relationships were still in slight shambles, and I realized that not much had changed.

“If it had changed, it really just amplified what was already there. So if there were insecurities, it just blasted them out of the water.”

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An interviewer commented about Jennifer Lawrence:

“You could practically see her brain scanning the room, sifting through the data, and then spitting out something dryly observed, perfectly timed, or oddly profound. …

“Given her intensity, it does not come as a surprise that Lawrence describes her childhood as an ‘unhappy’ one—exceptional, excitable, hot-wired kids are often misunderstood and full of anxiety. Lawrence herself was so anxious that her parents found her a therapist.

“I was a weirdo,” she says. “I wasn’t picked on or anything. And I wasn’t smarter than the other kids; that’s not why I didn’t fit in.

“I’ve always just had this weird anxiety. I hated recess. I didn’t like field trips. Parties really stressed me out. And I had a very different sense of humor.”

From article: Intensity and Being Creative.

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

In an interview for French magazine Madame Figaro, Lawrence talked about experiencing social anxiety.

“My nickname was ‘Nitro,’ as nitroglycerin.

“I was hyperactive, curious about everything. When my mother talks about my childhood, she always says there was a light within me.

“When I went to school, this light went out. We never knew what it was, a kind of social anxiety. I went to see a shrink, nothing worked.”

But she decided pursue a career in acting.

“One day, I begged my parents to take me to a casting. We went off to New York and that’s where I started acting. On stage, my mother saw the change taking place in me.

“She saw my anxieties disappear. … I felt capable whereas before I felt good for nothing. This is why mom fought for me to become an actress.”

Jennifer Lawrence on Her Anxiety Disorder, Good Morning America, November 18, 2013.

Audio in my video from: Why Was Jennifer Lawrence in Therapy? by Hollyscoop, Nov 18, 2013.

Photos in video and above from Facebook page for the movie “Joy” – the true story of Joy Mangano who “founds a business dynasty by inventing the Miracle Mop and becomes a matriarch in her own right.” [imdb]

>> See more videos: Anxiety Solutions YouTube Channel

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Carrie UnderwoodCarrie Underwood: “At the beginning of my career, I used to have panic attacks.

“People were touching me, screaming—it made me really nervous. In public, I just get nervous. It’s a physical reaction, feeling like the walls are closing in.” //

“We were never a huggy family, or a ‘let’s talk this out’ family,” she says.

“Technically I have siblings, but they are quite a bit older than me—I was the accident—so I have the only-child syndrome going on. I’m a little more selfish, a little more independent, a little closed.”

Underwood shrugs. “I do wish I were softer [and] able to form relationships better. But hey, I mean, I’m not a sociopath.”

[Marie Claire June 2013 cover article, via The Week magazine May 22, 2013. Photo from www.carrieunderwoodofficial.com]

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Kate Ford Facebook testimonialKate Ford, actress in “Coronation Street”, in OK Magazine:

“I have been suffering with nerves for years.

“It’s a fear of embarassing myself if I’m in the company of strangers.

“But once you’ve broken the cycle of panic you are okay.

“The Linden Method really works for me.”

From article: The Linden Method – Using Behavioral Science for Anxiety.

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Helena Bonham Carter at 83rd Academy Awards

Helena Bonham Carter – while appearing at the London Film Festival to promote her movie ‘The King’s Speech’ :

“I suffer from stage fright right now. I don’t like making speeches…

“I’m the kind of introvert, mad actor who likes putting on other people’s clothes and pretending to be somebody else.”

Colin Firth: “I had appalling stage fright the last time I went on stage.

“We’d only had two weeks rehearsal, hadn’t had a proper dress rehearsal, we were at the Donmar [theater], there were no prompters, and I had to open with a two page monologue.

“I locked myself in the toilet before the performance… I just thought, take a deep breath and remember your first line, and I couldn’t.”

[From Colin Firth – Colin Firth’s ‘Appalling’ Stage Fright, contactmusic.com 25 October 2010]

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Edie Falco says she battled a crippling bout with mental health challenges before achieving stardom in “The Sopranos” …

“There were some horrible years… And real heavy-duty darkness can set in. I had a little bit of a nervous breakdown, I suppose.

“Somebody got me a job at a hardware store and I started having terrible anxiety attacks,” she recalls.

See more of her quotes in post: High Ability, High Sensitivity, High Anxiety.

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Hugh Grant said, “I get these panic attacks. So I have always tried to do everything I possibly can – herbal remedies, chemical remedies.

“Running was the only thing that really helped.

“It calmed me down, so I didn’t have the panic attacks. But at the same time, I found it lowered my sense of humour.

“I lost my edge a bit. So in the end, I stopped running.” [imdb.com]

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Alison Pill

“The only way to deal with nerves is by focusing on whatever you have to do and forgetting about the number of people watching and everything that depends on you.

“Sometimes, I get so incredibly nervous before a take that I forget lines or I mess them up.

“When that happens, I know that I am not a part of the scene since the character isn’t nervous.

“It’s a matter of aligning your own feelings with what the scene is about… if the character isn’t uncomfortable then I can’t be.” [From a Message Board on an old website of hers.]

In a July 2010 interview for Venice Magazine, she was asked, Do you get stage fright before a show?

Pill replied, “No. Usually, I just can’t wait. I get annoyed with the audience when they make me wait.” [laughs]

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> Related article: Actors and Anxiety – Get Help For Your Stage Fright.

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Italian opera star Cecilia Bartoli says she is still anxious ahead of every performance.

“No, stage fright never stops. One cannot and must not be calm before a performance,” she said. “It helps if you are musically confident and accomplished in terms of technique. But there is always anxiety.”

But Bartoli seemed confident in taking on the challenge of succeeding conductor Riccardo Muti as artistic director of the Whitsun Festival, an annual offshoot of the prestigious Salzburg Festival. [earthtimes.org]

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More artists – a list from a site of The Linden Method:

“You are not alone…

“Sometimes it is just nice to know that we are not alone with this condition. Even celebrities suffer from anxiety. Late nights, bad dietary habits, money and work stress, long days and jet lag take their toll on anyone, regardless of age.

“Anxiety sufferers are getting younger and younger, the condition can strike anyone at any time.

“This is a list of famous people who are reported to have suffered from anxiety:

* Nicole Kidman (actress)

* Kim Basinger (actress)

* Delta Burke (actress)

* Donny Osmond (entertainer)

* Winston Churchill

* John Cougar Mellancamp (musician / actor)

* Ann Wilson (Singer – Rock Group ‘Heart’)

* Winona Ryder (actress)

* Marie Osmand (entertainer)

* Cher (singer, actress)

* Beverly Johnson (supermodel)

* Roseanne Barr (comedian / actress)

* Michael Jackson (singer)

* Naomi Judd (singer)

* Susan Powter (tv host)

* Nicholas Cage (actor)

* Sissy Spacek (actress)

* Johnny Depp (actor)

* Sally Field (actress)

* Alanis Morisette (singer)

* Burt Reynolds (actor)

* Courtney Love (singer – actress)

* Naomi Campbell (supermodel)

* David Bowie (singer)

* Carly Simon (singer)

* Aretha Franklin (singer)

* Lani O’Grady (actress)

* Michael English (singer)

* Sir Laurence Olivier (actor)

* Earl Campbell (football player)

* Al Kasha (songwriter)

* Emily Dickinson (poet)

* Marty Ingels (comedian)

* John Madden (sports announcer)

* Leila Kenzle (actress)

* Willard Scott (weatherman)

* Shecky Greene (comedian)

* Olivia Hussey (actress)

* Oprah Winfrey (host – claims she had just one attack)

* Tom Snyder (host)

* John Candy (comedian – actor)

* Sam Shepard (playwright)

* Isaac Asimov (author – educator)

* Charles Schultz (cartoonist)

* Dean Cain (actor)

* Barbra Streisand (singer / actress)

* Anne Tyler (author)

* James Garner (actor)

* Jim Eisenreich (baseball)

* Pete Harnisch (baseball)

* Nikola Tesla (inventor)

* Charlotte Bronte (author)

* Alfred Lord Tennyson (poet)

* Sigmund Freud (psychiatrist)

* John Steinbeck (author)

* W.B. Yeats (poet)

* Sir Isaac Newton (scientist)

* Abraham Lincoln (president)

* Barbara Gordon (filmmaker)

* Robert Burns (poet)

* Edvard Munch (artist)

* John Stuart Mill (philosopher)

* Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal)

* Lucille Ball (actress, singer)

* Jordan and Jonathon Knight (new kids on the block)

* Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics (singer)

Source: website for program The Linden Method

“Developing The Linden Method was the final chapter in my recovery, but to date it has helped [about 200,000] ex-sufferers to permanently and completely eliminate panic attacks, anxiety attacks, OCD, phobias and all the associated symptoms that had previously dominated and ruled their lives.” Charles Linden

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Alex Lambert on stage fright

Getting Over Stage Fright

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