“As many of you know, around a year ago I revealed that I have lupus, an illness that can affect people in different ways,” the singer and actress, 24, tells PEOPLE exclusively in a statement. “I’ve discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges.”
“I want to be proactive and focus on maintaining my health and happiness and have decided that the best way forward is to take some time off. Thank you to all my fans for your support. You know how special you are to me, but I need to face this head on to ensure I am doing everything possible to be my best. I know I am not alone by sharing this, I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues,” she continues.
According to Kenneth M. Farber, the co-CEO and co-president of the Lupus Research Alliance, “it is not commonly known that depression, anxiety and panic attacks can be side effects of lupus. We are so proud of Selena for taking care of herself and bringing awareness to this sometimes very misunderstood illness.”
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A source close to Gomez tells PEOPLE the break is “absolutely not related to alcohol or substance abuse” and was prompted after she “hadn’t felt like herself” over the last couple of months.
“She decided to clear her calendar for the year in order to have this be her priority for future happiness and didn’t want to leave any promoters at bay,” says the source. “She feels relieved that she can now make more sense of why she was feeling the way she was and is optimistic about the future.”
Last fall, the star confirmed ongoing rumors she was battling the autoimmune disease, telling Billboard she underwent chemotherapy as treatment during a break she took in 2013 in the midst of her Stars Dance tour.
“I wanted so badly to say, ‘You guys have no idea. I’m in chemotherapy. You’re ass—–.’ I locked myself away until I was confident and comfortable again,” Gomez told the publication.