Ryan Phillippe Talks About His Past Depression Struggles

By McCarton Ackerman 12/30/16

“I am happy. It hasn’t always been like that, so I’m hoping to keep it going."

Ryan Phillippe
Photo via YouTube

Between a successful Hollywood career and being a father to three children, Ryan Phillippe may appear to have it all. But the actor (One Life to Live, Cruel Intentions) revealed his current life is the result of hard work to tackle depression he dealt with in his younger years.

Phillippe, now 42, told People magazine that he "struggled much more with depression when I was in my 20s and 30s." However, the actor says he is now “not nearly as dark a person as I used to be or as at the mercy of my emotions,” through finding techniques to cope with difficult emotions.

“I think the amount of reading that I’ve done, the work on myself and the ways that I’ve found to cope are healthier than when I was younger,” said Phillippe. “I don’t know what that specifically amounts to other than being more careful and considerate about why you make the choices you do or where the feelings you have come from. And then ultimately, just breathe.”

It hasn’t always been easy for Phillippe to do that, particularly when his 2006 divorce from Reese Witherspoon led to intense public scrutiny. Although he acknowledged that “we live in a time where being a private person isn’t really an option anymore,” he said the difficulties that come with being in the public eye have forced him to change his approach to handling them for the sake of managing his depression.

“When you go through dark periods in life or if you’re a person who has struggled with depression as I have throughout my life, to know that that can decrease and that it doesn’t have to be your defining characteristic, that you can find ways to manage and cope and feel better—that’s what I’m referring to.”

“There is a sensitivity that will never change and an empathy that will never change,” said Phillippe. “But how you deal with those feelings and where you let them take you, that’s an individualistic journey for anyone who struggles.”

This isn’t the first time Phillippe has opened up about his depression. In March 2015, he told Elle that he’s “innately kind of a sad person. I’m empathetic, and I take on the feelings of others and transpose myself into the position of others.” However, Phillippe also said he’d “prefer to suffer through the sadness than to be a complete moron with no feelings.”

It appears that he’s managed to find a happy medium as of late. With a current leading role as Bob Lee Swagger in the USA Network drama series Shooter, Phillippe is aiming to keep his mental health as on-point as his career.

“I am happy. It hasn’t always been like that, so I’m hoping to keep it going. And I think from there too, giving back and sharing whatever I can [is important],” he said. 

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.