Ryan Reynolds Opens Up About Living With Anxiety — Here's Why That's Important

May 4, 2018 at 1:18 p.m. ET
Image: Han Myung-Gu/Contributor/Getty Images

Ryan Reynolds may seem like the epitome of the calm, cool and collected movie star, but in a recent interview with The New York Times, he spoke candidly about living with anxiety.

“I have anxiety, I’ve always had anxiety,” he told The New York Times. “Both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of thing, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.”

While this may sounds like another "celebrities: They're just like us!" throwaway line of an interview, the fact that the actor and former Sexiest Man Alive was so open about living with the condition is significant. Here you have someone known for playing confident male leads and superheroes saying that underneath the facade, sometimes he's a "nervous wreck."

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Reynolds refers to his early 20s as his "unhinged phase" — back when he was on a sitcom called Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place.

“I was partying and just trying to make myself vanish in some way,” he told the newspaper, explaining that he would frequently wake up in the middle of the night riddled with anxiety about his future. Initially, he "self-medicated" (though didn't elaborate on which substance(s) he used), but after a few of his friends died of overdoses, he decided to give up that lifestyle, The New York Times reported.

And why does this matter? To begin with, anxiety disorders — like the one Reynolds is living with — are extremely common, affecting around 40 million adults in the U.S. (or about 18 percent of the population over the age of 18) according to Anxiety and Depression Association of America. But despite how widespread it is — and the fact that anxiety is highly treatable — only 36.9 percent of those with the condition seek treatment for it. And when someone like Reynolds — known for playing a superhero — normalizes the discussion around anxiety and mental illness, it makes it a little easier and more acceptable for the rest of us.

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So, how does he deal with his anxiety on a day-to-day basis, especially with all the interviews and media appearances coming up ahead of the release of his new Deadpool movie? For starters, he said that he does a lot of his interviews in character — so it's essentially like acting again. Another coping mechanism is using the meditation app Headspace. But more than anything, he knows that as soon as he steps onstage, the anxiety will begin to melt away, he told the Times

“When the curtain opens, I turn on this knucklehead, and he kind of takes over and goes away again once I walk off set,” he said in the interview. “That’s that great self-defense mechanism. I figure if you’re going to jump off a cliff, you might as well fly.”

If you’re looking for resources for helping a friend or loved one or trying to get information about treatment for yourself, you can turn to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling them at 1-800-273-8255.

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