Actress Emma Stone opened up about her lifelong battle with anxiety and panic attacks, and said her first one was "terrifying"

By Julie Mazziotta
October 02, 2018 11:21 AM

For Emma Stone, her battle with anxiety and panic attacks has been a lifelong struggle.

The actress, 29, spoke openly about her struggle with mental health that started with her first panic attack at 7 years old.

“After first grade before I went into second grade, I had my first panic attack. It was really, really terrifying and overwhelming,” Stone told Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz at a session with Advertising Week in New York City on Monday, E! reported. “I was at a friend’s house, and all of a sudden I was convinced the house was on fire and it was burning down. I was just sitting in her bedroom and obviously the house wasn’t on fire, but there was nothing in me that didn’t think we were going to die.”

After that first panic attack, Stone said she “couldn’t go to friends’ houses,” because she didn’t want to be away from her mom.

And her attacks continued for the next two years. Stone said that she would pretend to be sick so she could go to the nurse’s office every day in second grade and call her mom to go home.

Emma Stone at the Child Mind Institute
| Credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty

Stone started seeing a therapist who diagnosed her with generalized anxiety and panic disorder, but he did not share that with her, which she believes was important to her career dreams.

“I am very grateful I didn’t know that I had a disorder,” she said. “I wanted to be an actor and there weren’t a lot of actors who spoke about having panic attacks.”

Stone later found that acting and improv were another form of therapy that helped her through her anxiety.

“With improv, I learned I could take all of these big feelings and really listen in the moment and use all of my associative brain that still wakes me up in the middle of the night and the thing that still haunts me to this day to be useful to my job,” she said.

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Stone said that applies that understanding to her acting work, as a way to relate to her characters.

“I also believe there is a lot of empathy when you struggled a lot internally,” she said. “There is a tendency to want to understand how people around you work or what’s going on internally with them which is great for characters.”

And Stone thinks that anxiety can be a “superpower,” when you take control.

“I believe that people who have anxiety and depression are very, very sensitive and very, very smart, because the world is hard and scary and there’s a lot that goes on, and when you’re really attuned to that, it can be crippling. And if you don’t let it cripple you and you use it for something positive and productive, it’s like a superpower.”