For most of her life, actress Elsie Fisher thought her anxiety was just “weirdness.”
“I thought of myself as the crazy kid,” the star of Eighth Grade, 15, tells PEOPLE. “I would just act out in conversations because I was nervous, but I didn’t know what this weird feeling was.”
Much like her character Kayla Day in Eighth Grade, Fisher came to understand more of herself during that middle school year, and realized that what she was feeling was anxiety.
“Truly, when I found out I had anxiety, was when I was scrolling through Tumblr, and I came across a post that was about mental health awareness,” she says. “I saw anxiety and the definition, and I was like, that really describes how I’m feeling.”
Finding a label for what she was experiencing immediately helped Fisher find ways to cope.
“I think a lot of what anxiety is, is it overwhelms you, but once you put a name to it, you can start learning how to fix it,” she says. Fisher now has a few different methods to ease her anxiety, including using the Stop, Breathe & Think app, which “helps you identify the emotions you’re feeling” with mindfulness and mediation.
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The high school sophomore also finds that talking about her anxiety makes a big difference, which is why she wanted to speak out about it publicly.
“I wanted to give my opinions as someone who’s in the middle of it, and as someone who hasn’t dealt with them completely yet,” she says. “I have resources and things that can help me. But I’m just as anxious as I was a year ago.”
Fisher says that she’s able to talk to her friends about her anxiety, and she found a kinship in Eighth Grade‘s writer and director, Bo Burnham.
“That’s what Bo Burnham’s comedy is about, anxiety, and I think that’s why I really like it,” she says. “I think there are a lot of other comedians, like John Mulaney, who talk about anxiety too. I think it’s really nice, because you can share these feelings with someone but you can still laugh about it at the end of the day.”
And Fisher agrees that social media and the internet are partly to blame for the increase in teens who have anxiety, but she thinks that they can also help.
“It’s definitely a widespread problem that teens are dealing with. But at least we’re bringing more light to this and there’s more awareness,” she says. “That’s one of the beautiful things about the internet. It may be bringing more anxiety but it also gives us so many more resources to talk about it and help you deal with it.”