Keira Knightley Talks PTSD, Dealing With Early Fame

By David Konow 10/11/18

In a new interview, Knightley revealed the toll that sudden fame took on her mental health after the box office success of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley first broke through to stardom with the film Bend It Like Beckham in 2002, then she hit the jackpot with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. But early fame was very difficult for her to handle. As she tells The Hollywood Reporter, she was diagnosed with PTSD after having “a mental breakdown at 22.”

Knightley says the run of Pirates sequels “was completely insane—from the outside you’re like, ‘Whoa, that was hit after hit after hit!’ But from the inside, all you’re hearing is the criticism.”

Knightley's insecurities about being a young actress festered. “I was aware that I didn’t know what I was doing, you know? I didn’t know my trade, I didn’t know my craft. I knew that there was something that worked sometimes, but I didn’t know how to kind of capture that.”

Being in the tabloids was hard to deal with as well. “I didn’t handle it well," she reveals. "It was a really rude awakening to he world of misogyny… I never experienced that level of hatred on a day-to-day basis. There was a sense of, like, battle every day of leaving the house.”

After her PTSD diagnosis, the actress took a much-needed year off. 

Knightley traveled for a year, saying it “gave me that space I needed to be able to start again. I felt pretty much like I sort of didn’t exist and I was this weird creature with this weird face that people seemed to respond to in quite an extreme way, and I couldn’t quite figure any of it out.”

Her family helped her through this dark time. She says, “I can really enjoy things now. I look back and I just sort of want to give myself a hug and be like, ‘Oh, you’re doing all right, you’ll be all right.’”

In 2015, Knightley spoke to Elle about therapy. “I highly recommended it. I don’t do it at the moment. But in my early 20s when I found everything completely overwhelming, 100%, I did it! I think when you’re in those moments in your life, and you want to get through them… you have to do whatever it is to help you get over it. You have to give it a go. Try anything that might help.” 

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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.