25 Famous Women on Dealing With Anxiety – The Cut

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

During the last two (pandemic) years, the number of women experiencing anxiety has skyrocketed. Millions of people worldwide have anxiety disorders, and women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed in their lifetime, which is also true of depression. Back in 2020, when the world was first in lockdown, many people spoke out about how the isolation was affecting their mental health. Celebs like Selena Gomez took to Instagram to share diagnoses, and athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles took time off to care for their mental health. 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 Lady Gaga, Zendaya, Kerry Washington, Selena Gomez, and others on coping mechanisms, the importance of asking for and accepting help, and the necessity of speaking out about anxiety and mental health struggles.

1. Simone Biles
“My perspective has never changed so quickly from wanting to be on a podium to wanting to be able to go home, by myself, without any crutches. You know, there have been highs, there have been lows. Sometimes it’s like, yeah, I’m perfectly okay with it. And then other times I’ll just start bawling in the house. If I still had my air awareness, and I just was having a bad day, I would have continued, but it was more than that. Say up until you’re 30 years old, you have your complete eyesight. One morning, you wake up, you can’t see shit, but people tell you to go on and do your daily job as if you still have your eyesight. You’d be lost, wouldn’t you? That’s the only thing I can relate it to. I have been doing gymnastics for 18 years. I woke up — lost it. How am I supposed to go on with my day?” — the Cut, 2021

2. Selena Gomez
“Recently, I went to one of the best mental hospitals in America, McClean Hospital, and after years of going through a lot of different things, I realized that I was bipolar. And so when I get to know more information, it actually helps me. It doesn’t scare me once I know it. I think people get scared of that, right? They’re like, ‘Oh!’ And I’ve seen some of it in my own family, where I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ I’m from Texas, it’s just not known to talk about mental health. You’ve got to seem cool. And then I see anger built up in children and teenagers or young adults because they are wanting that so badly. I just feel like when I finally said what I was going to say, I wanted to know everything about it. And it took the fear away.” — Instagram Live with Miley Cyrus, April 2020

3. 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

4. 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

5. Zendaya
“My anxiety first started when I was younger and I had to take a test at school. I remember panicking, and my teacher had to walk me out of the room and say, ‘Calm down, deep breaths.’ I don’t think it really came up again until I was about 16, when I was working and there was a project I had turned down. That was kind of my first time dealing with the internet, and it made me feel sick. I deleted everything and stayed in my room. Live performing really gave me anxiety too. I think a lot of it stems from the pressure I put on myself, wanting to do my best and not make a mistake. I definitely don’t have it under control yet. I don’t have the key, so if anybody does, let me know! I do find that talking about it is helpful, and that can often mean calling my mom in the middle of the night. Sometimes I make her sleep on the phone with me like a frickin’ baby.” — InStyle, August 2020

6. Lady Gaga
Reflecting on her rape and subsequent PTSD and anxiety: “My diaphragm seizes up. Then I have a hard time breathing, and my whole body goes into a spasm. And I begin to cry. That’s what it feels like for trauma victims every day, and it’s … miserable … I always say that trauma has a brain. And it works its way into everything that you do.” — SELF, September 2018

7. 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

8. 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

9. Aparna Nancherla
“I have a lot of anxiety. Sometimes when you tell people you have anxiety, they’re like, ‘Well, you know, there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.’ It’s like, ‘Okay, have you checked out some of fear’s work? Pretty much turning out solid-gold hits, making some great points, rarely misfires.’ I would describe it as there is an edgy improv group in your brain, and it just needs a one-word suggestion to spin countless scenarios.” — The Half Hour, 2016

10. 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

11. 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

12. Samantha Irby
On dedicating her book Wow, No Thank You to Wellbutrin: “I do often wonder how sustainable it is to memorialize all of these bad thoughts. These books don’t go away, they’re permanent. But then I’m like, Well, if someone else can relate or connect, then it’s fine, it’s useful. And I still feel like we’re in on the joke together. I know myself well enough to know when it gets to a point of crossing that very thin line. It’s funny because we’ll say, ‘You’re so open. Is there anything you don’t share?’ Uh, yeah, the real shit that makes me feel bad. I don’t want to put anything in a book that I can’t shout out into the street.” — HuffPost, April 2020

13. 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

14. Willow
“There’s shame. There’s guilt. There’s sadness. There’s confusion. And then you don’t even want to talk about it because you’re like, I feel crazy. I feel crazy for feeling this way, and I don’t want them to think I’m crazy, so I’m just not going to say anything.” — Red Table Talk, December 2020.

15. 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

16. Naomi Osaka
“Hey everyone, this isn’t a situation I ever imagined or intended when I posted a few days ago. I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players, and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. I never wanted to be a distraction, and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly. The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018, and I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows I’m introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety. Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I want to apologize, especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can. So here in Paris, I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious, so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences. I announced it preemptively because I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts, and I wanted to highlight that. I wrote privately to the tournament apologizing and saying that I would be more than happy to speak with them after the tournament as the Slams are intense. I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time’s right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press, and fans.” — Instagram, May 2021

17. Miley Cyrus
“I feel like I was going to have a panic attack. I want to tell you about the experience. Like everyone else, for the last year and a half, I have been locked away and isolated, and it is very stunning to be back in a place that used to feel like second nature. Being on stage used to feel like home, and it doesn’t anymore because of how much time I spent at home locked away. The pandemic was startling and terrifying, and coming out of it is slightly terrifying. So I just wanted to be honest with how I’m feeling because I think by being honest about that, it makes me less afraid.” — During a show, September 2021

18. 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

19. 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

20. 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

21. 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

22. 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

23. 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

24. 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

25. 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