Emma Stone Talks Anxiety, Panic Attacks

By Beth Leipholtz 10/04/18

"You don't have to be an actor to overcome anxiety. You just have to find that thing within you that you are drawn to."

Emma Stone

Emma Stone can vividly remember her first panic attack at age seven. 

"I was sitting at a friend’s house and all of a sudden I was absolutely convinced that the house was on fire," Stone recalled. "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 I was going to die."

On Monday (Oct. 1), the actress sat down with Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz for a 30-minute conversation at the Child Mind Institute in New York City. She discussed her history of anxiety, beginning with the panic attack. Stone went on to describe how she would visit the school nurse daily during second grade, wanting to go home because she felt sick.

"I had deep separation anxiety," she told Koplewicz.

Stone’s mother decided to take her to therapy and was informed her daughter had generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder, ABC News reports. However, she chose not to tell her daughter, which is something Stone says she has appreciated. 

"I am very grateful I didn't know that I had a disorder," Stone said. "I wanted to be an actor and there weren't a lot of actors who spoke about having panic attacks."

Stone described how in therapy, she came up with a book called I Am Bigger Than My Anxiety. She says she drew photos inside of “a little green monster that sits on my shoulder." In the book, the monster—her anxiety—would increase in size if she listened and decrease if she didn’t.

A few years after her first panic attack at age 11, Stone says she began acting in improv and realized “my feelings could be productive."

She also stayed involved in the local children’s theater which helped manage her anxiety.

"I believe the people who have anxiety and depression are very, very sensitive and very, very smart," she said. "Because the world is hard and scary and there's a lot that goes on and if you’re very attuned to it, it can be crippling. But if you don't let it cripple you and use it for something productive, it's like a superpower."

Today, Stone says, she manages her anxiety disorder through therapy, medication, the company of others and staying busy. She also avoids social media. 

"That would send me into a spin," she said. "I don’t need to be getting constant feedback on who I am."

For anyone battling anxiety, Stone says the key is finding somewhere else to shift your focus. 

"You don't have to be an actor to overcome anxiety, you don't have to be a writer to overcome it,” she told Koplewicz. “You just have to find that thing within you that you are drawn to."

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.