Julianne Hough Uses Dancing To Combat Anxiety & Depression

By David Konow 04/16/19

Hough says she considers dancing her "superpower.” 

Julianne Hough

Two-time Dancing With the Stars winner Julianne Hough is opening up about how she used dancing to battle anxiety and depression. 

As Hough explained to People, “I struggled with anxiety and depression growing up. I don’t think a lot of people would know that because I come off as sunshine and happiness and positivity.”

Hough has struggled with endometriosis, which she was diagnosed with when she was in her early twenties. Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of it, and it can lead to intense chronic pain and infertility. (It can also make sex very painful, and one in ten women suffer from the condition.)

Hough told the Huffington Post, “It’s very debilitating. I can’t get up in the morning sometimes or it interferes with my daily activities. It really has affected my quality of life.”

Hough also told Women’s Health that it was very traumatic when she was first diagnosed. “At the time I felt very lonely and like nobody understood me. I had no idea that [so many women] had endometriosis.”

When Hough spoke at the annual The Wonder of Women Summit in Los Angeles, she also said that dance has helped her feel mentally and physically balanced.

“I believe that those two work hand in hand. I put on music immediately, which helps my auditory and sensory experience with my body. So then my body is activated and I’m moving my body, which changes my whole energy level for the day. So I get to choose how I show up in the world, with all the external pressures.”

Hough considers dancing her “superpower.” She also feels that it “really transformed my experience and gave me a way to express myself. [Dance] actually breaks the barrier so you get confidence within yourself, and it’s for nobody else but you.”

Hough said she is working with neurologist Dr. Wendy Suzuki, who also appeared at The Wonder of Women Summit, on studying the effects of dancing on people’s brains and well-being. “We’ve been really closely looking at how it affects the brain, our memory, and our ability to create endorphins and mood boost.”

Hough’s brother Derek, a judge on the dance competition show World of Dance, released his first solo single "Hold On" in 2017, which dealt with mental health issues and had a strong anti-suicide message. 

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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.