Emma Stone Opens Up About Dealing With Anxiety, Panic Attacks

By David Konow 12/29/16

“If I listen to it enough, it crushes me. But if I turn my head and keep doing what I’m doing, then it shrinks down and fades away.”

Emma Stone

Recently, a number of prominent actors, performers, and even supermodels have gone public about their battles with anxiety, with some like Selena Gomez choosing to enter rehab to manage it. Emma Stone is the latest to publicly state that she has struggled with anxiety as well.

Stone is currently receiving strong Oscar buzz for her role in the acclaimed musical La La Land, which many are calling refreshingly uncynical for today’s day and age. The young actress has come a long way, first gaining prominence in the comedy Superbad, then moving on to the critically-acclaimed The HelpThe Amazing Spider-Man, and Birdman, which got Stone her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. (She also performed in a recent revival of Cabaret on Broadway.)

In a new Rolling Stone profile, Stone says she has been dealing with panic attacks since she was a child. “My brain naturally zooming 30 steps ahead to the worst-case scenario,” she said. “When I was about seven, I was convinced the house was burning down. I could sense it … just a tightening in my chest, feeling I couldn’t breathe, like the world was going to end.”

It got so bad, Stone recalls, “I could barely get out the door to school.” Her parents enrolled her in therapy, which “helped so much,” she says today. To deal with her nerves, she even wrote a book, which she still has, called I Am Bigger Than My Anxiety.

On the cover of her book, Stone drew a green demon on her shoulder, spewing a lot of bad stuff in her ear. “Every time I listen to it, it grows bigger,” Stone says. “If I listen to it enough, it crushes me. But if I turn my head and keep doing what I’m doing ... then it shrinks down and fades away.”

Although performing can create a lot of nerves, Stone found that it's a great way to beat anxiety because it required her to focus. “You have to be present in improv, and that’s the antithesis of anxiety.”

Hollywood probably isn't the best environment for people suffering from anxiety. Stone left Los Angeles for New York, saying, “It’s what I imagine D.C. is like, where you’re surrounded by all these people who are constantly rising and falling in the local power rankings, and it’s the only thing they can think and talk about.”

One can only imagine what kind of anxiety Stone could be feeling before Oscar night, but when asked about potentially winning an Academy Award, Stone told Rolling Stone, “I’m trying not to think about that ... I just focus on what I’ve got to do at any one moment, and don’t necessarily think about where it’s all leading.” 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.