Anxiety is, by definition: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. The textbook meaning, however, doesn’t do the crippling feeling associated with anxiety any justice at all. For most people, anxiety isn’t just a passing feeling of worry or unease, it’s a debilitating fear that can manifest in unimaginable ways. Anxiety is a mental illness that can, and does, affect anyone – from your neighbor to your favorite celebrity – the illness shows no prejudice or favoritism.
In the age of digital media, where we’re all more connected than ever with the world seemingly at our fingertips – people have generally become more demanding, sometimes without even realizing it. In a matter of seconds, you can be connected with people all across the world, from friends and family to your favorite celebrities – it’s easy to tune into what someone is doing. While, for some, this changes absolutely nothing, for others – it serves to make anxiety stronger, more prominent.
Everyone knows someone who struggles with anxiety, and in turn, everyone knows how quickly the illness can be triggered. In the blink of an eye, a good day can turn into a stressful one, a calm afternoon can become panicked, and a group setting can feel smothering. While, in most cases, it’s easy to be forgiving and understanding with the panic and anxiety happens to a friend or family member, when celebrities are brave enough to share their personal struggles with anxiety – it’s sort of brushed aside and not taken as seriously as they deserve.
At the end of our work day, we can shut off, head home, and leave our stresses behind – we have a life separate from our careers. For a person in the public eye, this isn’t quite as easy. Lately, more celebrities are stepping forward, letting their guards down, and showing more real sides of themselves to their fans. Some have taken this opportunity to talk about anxiety, depression, and other mental illness’ that we all suffer from, and in their attempts to let us know that they’re a lot like us, they are also – indirectly – asking us to be understanding.
On June 11th, Zayn Malik took to social media with a post apologizing for his absence at Capital FM’s Summertime Ball.
— zayn (@zaynmalik) June 11, 2016
In an act of bravery and revealing his soul and truth, Zayn explained his absence and in turn approached a very difficult topic of conversation – his struggle with anxiety and the fear of letting people down. For people with mental illness, one of the hardest parts of the disease is worrying about the people around you, those that you love and the ones that love you. Zayn is surrounded by a lot of love and support and he was still afraid to be honest after trying to prepare himself for a performance, but falling victim to crippling anxiety in the process.
Throughout Zayn’s time in One Direction, he was painted as the ‘mysterious’ one that never said much and while his personality was used as a tactic to draw people in, it’s clear now that he wasn’t openly embracing the mystery bad-boy vibe, he’s always dealt with anxiety and with the other boys around – it was easier to work through. That, however, doesn’t mean it was ever a walk in the park for Zayn or that his time out of the spotlight was the cure all for his anxiety.
Zayn isn’t the first, only, or last celebrity struggling with a debilitating level of anxiety nor is he the first to take the brave step to share it with his fans.
Early in her career, Adele was open with her anxiety and told about how it prevented her from playing music festivals – she turned down a headlining gig at Glastonbury – and had a hand in how she chose her venues as she was plagued with anxiety if she felt the crowd would be too big.
I have anxiety attacks, constant panicking on stage, my heart feels like it’s going to explode because I never feel like I’m going to deliver, ever.
Through her career and after meeting other celebrities (Beyonce helped Adele get through some of her anxiety with an alter ego and compliment) she’s learned to manage her anxiety, but on stage, she still has a hard time for the first few songs and her honesty and willingness to try to power through the nervousness shows how dedicated she is to winning the struggle she has with anxiety.
Emma Stone also suffered from anxiety that manifested physically in ways that left her unable to cope. Before acting she struggled with panic attacks made worse with change, she needed reassurance that things were going to stay the same, that things would stay safe.
It was really bad. The first time I had a panic attack I was sitting in my friend’s house, and I thought the house was burning down. I called my mom and she brought me home, and for the next three years it just would not stop. I would go to the nurse at lunch most days and just wring my hands. I would ask my mom to tell me exactly how the day was going to be, then ask again 30 seconds later. I just needed to know that no one was going to die and nothing was going to change.
She learned to keep her anxiety at bay and through coping techniques has been able to manage her anxiety, acting – which causes more anxiety for some – actually helped Emma cope. She said that when you’re working your mind can’t be all over the place, you have to focus on your role and character at hand. Coming from such severe panic attacks, Emma is proof that you can manage anxiety and live a good life.
Youtube sensation, Zoella also got candid about her personal battle with anxiety in Glamour Magazine and how, for too long, she was brushed off by doctors when she explained the severity of her symptoms.
I go through phases where my anxiety isn’t as bad and when it’s pretty awful. When it’s good, I’ll be able to leave the house, go shopping, visit other countries for work, do meet and greets and generally live life like a ‘normal person’. When it’s bad, I can’t even leave my bed or I’ll start my day off by opening my eyes and having a panic attack. The symptoms are the same as they were 11 years ago – heart racing, the feeling of claustrophobia, nauseous and shortness of breath.
Zoella remembers the panic attacks beginning at a young age and thinking they were just a normal part of growing up, until she realized they stopped her from living her life. She learned her anxiety triggers as the panic disorder went on – they stemmed from feeling forced or stuck in a situation – and while there is no instant, or lasting, cure for those feelings, she’s learned to live her life anyway. She’s even made her story public on her YouTube and Blog so that other young adults can ask her questions, hear her story, and learn that they’re not alone in their own struggles.
Zoella also says the ‘get over it’ mindset that people have concerning those struggling with anxiety is a myth, and you’re not wrong for not being able to just brush off your anxiety. It’s an important statement for her to have made on a public forum as it allows people to know that their feelings are valid, even if they stem from an irrational fear.
So while it seems like the celebrities we look up to may have it all; bright shiny lives with big homes and nice cars and the world sitting pretty at their feet, sometimes all they desire is a moment of calm, time to unwind, to not constantly be afraid to let someone down. It’s important to remind the people we love, as well as the celebrities we idolize, that their anxiety doesn’t make them a disappointment, not to us or to themselves – it’s truly a show of strength that they’re willing to wake up every day and face it.
Zayn, we admire you for standing up for yourself, knowing your limits, and not pushing yourself to the point of breaking down, and we support you endlessly on this new chapter of your life.
Have you ever suffered anxiety? Tweet us at @CelebMix and tell us how you cope.