Jesse Eisenberg Talks Childhood Anxiety

By Victoria Kim 10/04/19

Eisenberg described how the anticipation of being bullied caused him to feel extremely anxious growing up. 

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Jesse Eisenberg
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Actor Jesse Eisenberg struggled with anxiety as a child, making it difficult for him to relax around other children, he said in a recent conversation with Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute.

The conversation was titled “Great Minds Think Unalike 2.0” and was part of Advertising Week, a gathering of media professionals. Eisenberg, who has his Zombieland sequel coming out on October 18, said that he anticipated being bullied as a child, putting him on edge around other children.

“I kept one tissue for crying and one for bleeding,” he told Koplewicz. “I was prepared for battle, but nothing ever happened, which was almost worse.”

Acting Offered Eisenberg A Safe Space

He also described how acting has been cathartic by providing a controlled space to experience emotion.

“Acting is a very visceral experience,” he said. “It is a cathartic way to have an emotional experience that is safe and contextualized. [It’s] different from real-life experiences [like] when I ran out of middle school hysterically crying due to my anxiety.”

The Academy Award-nominated actor, who says his anxiety surfaces “just in the morning, afternoon and evening,” said that if his younger self had witnessed the increasing dialogue about mental health awareness that we are seeing today, it would have provided him some relief. “If 12-year-old me was able to see something like this, it would show me that life ebbs and flows. It helps destigmatize something that is incorrectly stigmatized,” he said.

Being Mindful Around His Son

Eisenberg said he tries not to project his anxiety around his two-year-old son. “To me, there’s nothing better for one’s mental health than to worry about things that are real, and when you have a child, you can only worry about something that’s real,” he said.

“I resist all of the temptations I have to make [my son] neurotic because I know it’s not helpful. I know that what might feel good in the moment of consoling a kid who appears nervous may be detrimental in the long term,” he added.

In 2017, Eisenberg shared a video for the Child Mind Institute’s #MyYoungerSelf series, in which he shared what he would tell his younger self about dealing with anxiety and nervousness.

“I think I would probably tell myself two things. One is that it’s not the worst thing in the world to have those feelings. Even though it might feel like the worst thing in the world… actually having that anxiety might be indicative of other beneficial positive characteristics like sensitivity to the world or an empathy or maybe a kind of interesting or unusual perception of life that could benefit you over the long term,” he said.

He said the second thing he would tell his younger self is to get involved with charitable work sooner than later.

“I worked with people with terminal illnesses and volunteered at a domestic violence shelter, and you realize very quickly that other people have bigger problems than you and it puts your life in perspective in a healthy way. And it also gets you out of your own bad, cyclical thinking patterns. And of course, more importantly, it’s helping somebody else.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr