Being a creative person, with high sensitivity and intensity, can increase our vulnerability to emotional challenges like anxiety.
Actor Amanda Seyfried experiences emotional and mental health issues, like almost I in 5 people each year in the U.S.
In a magazine interview, she commented about her experiences and using an antidepressant medication used to treat anxiety:
“I’m on Lexapro, and I’ll never get off of it. I’ve been on it since I was 19, so 11 years. I’m on the lowest dose.
“I don’t see the point of getting off of it. Whether it’s placebo or not, I don’t want to risk it. And what are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool?
“A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category [from other illnesses], but I don’t think it is.
“It should be taken as seriously as anything else. You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there. Why do you need to prove it?
“If you can treat it, you treat it.
“I had pretty bad health anxiety that came from the OCD and thought I had a tumor in my brain.
“I had an MRI, and the neurologist referred me to a psychiatrist.”
“As I get older, the compulsive thoughts and fears have diminished a lot.
“Knowing that a lot of my fears are not reality-based really helps.”
From Amanda Seyfried on Her Mental Health, Her Dog, and Those Eyes by David DeNicolo, Allure, Oct 18, 2016.
See more quotes by Seyfried below.
Many creative people are born with the personality trait of high sensitivity, which can help nurture creativity, but also lead to vulnerabilities to stress, anxiety, overwhelm, unhealthy self esteem and other challenges.
Psychologist Elaine Aron thinks “high sensitivity increases the impact of all emotionally tinged events, making childhood trauma particularly scarring.”
In her book The Highly Sensitive Child, Dr. Aron notes that some sensitive adolescents may drink and use drugs to try to overcome anxiety or depression through self-medication.
From my article Sensitive to anxiety.
(Of course, we may also self-medicate with alcohol and other drugs when we “grow up” – and can risk addiction, and self-limiting in other ways; see more on that below.)
Writer Deborah Ward comments, “Because highly sensitive people absorb so much stimulation from their environment, we are more susceptible to these feelings of anxiety.
“A recent study showed that people with a more sensitive ‘startle’ reflex, that is, highly sensitive people, are more susceptible to anxiety disorders because we have different genes than others, making it harder for us to deal with emotional arousal.”
See more in article
Dealing With Worry and Anxiety To Be More Creative.
Being self critical and perfectionistic can help us pursue excellence – but also at times undermine positive feelings and creative expression.
Amanda Seyfried expressed some of her perspectives about the kinds of feelings such as perfectionism that impact many creative people, whether famous or not.
“Oh, I’m always being briefed by a publicist before I have [interviews].
“They’re like, ‘Come on, you can’t be self-deprecating.’ ”
“But that’s just who she is, said Atom Egoyan, who directed “Chloe” (2009) …
“She’s very self critical. After I would say cut, she always had this expression of frustration, like she didn’t quite get it.
“But I found that quite endearing, because she’s always feeling there’s more she can do to capture or enhance or clarify.”
[From Amanda Seyfried in full bloom, By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2010]
[Painting: “Amanda” by Mark Ryden inspired by Amanda Seyfried. Also see his Facebook page.]
Seyfried notes she was obsessive as a child:
“I would have to be really organized — too organized. Things like straightening my room didn’t feel right to me; I’d have to redo it and redo it.”
But she thinks “that kind of anxiety in me, that obsession, was helpful. I use it in my acting. It’s something I don’t want to give up feeling, because it gives me an edge.”
From my post Amanda Seyfried on anxiety.
But maybe it’s a matter of how we label our feelings.
Many talented actors, singers or other performers like Seyfried may want to keep an “edge” to feel they are working at their best.
A positive “edge” may be high energy, plus excitement mixed with some fear – but not really anxiety, which can interfere with creative expression.
video: Amanda Seyfried on drinking to deal with anxiety
Like many creative people, Amanda Seyfried experiences anxiety.
She has used psychotherapy, counseling, medication (Lexapro) and drinking to deal with her feelings.
One example: she admits to getting some “liquid courage” from alcohol to appear on talk shows.
From a Glamour magazine article:
“In Vogue magazine, Amanda Seyfried “reveals that she sought therapy after getting drunk before her appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman back in 2012.
“Amanda says she decided to seek counseling after turning to alcohol to calm her nerves before the interview.
She said: “It made it fun for me, but then I watched it and was like, ‘That is not what I want to promote about myself’.
“Amanda – who openly admits she suffers from anxiety – was on the show to promote her movie Les Miserables but confessed she was “pretty drunk” after drinking shots of whiskey.
“The 29-year-old star…claims the incident made her realise she needed to address her issues in a more productive way.
“I have a lot of anxiety that I’ve been struggling with my whole life. So I have been working through it. I’m terrified, but this is exactly what I wanted.”
“Amanda is currently starring in a play titled The Way We Get By and admits that while her therapy sessions have helped with her stage fright, she still feels self-conscious.”
From “Amanda Seyfried had therapy after being drunk on TV” By Leanne Bayley, Glamour, 19 May 2015.
[Video clip from the David Letterman show is from the article: “Amanda Seyfried reveals she sought counselling for anxiety after THAT ‘drunk’ interview with David Letterman” By Kayla Caldwell for MailOnline 18 May 2015.]
Helping creative people with emotional health
Therapist Sharon M. Barnes works with creative, sensitive, intense, intelligent people.
She comments in an article of hers about some of the qualities and challenges she sees in her practice of many years:
“Creativity and creative expression can be fun but can also be a great burden. Creative ideas show up whether we have time to pay attention to them, or do anything with them or not.
“They also often arrive in tandem or multiples, and the creative person has to choose which idea gets to see the light of day.
“Being aware of things that most people are not may lead to exciting AHA! moments.
“At the same time it can create questions of what’s real and what’s not when no one else sees what you’re seeing.
“It may also carve a canyon of separation between the acutely aware person and others who are less aware.”
Being highly sensitive
“Likewise, sensitivity is a double edged sword. It often brings a capacity for depth of feeling and thought along with a high level of conscientiousness, compassion and empathy.
“On the other hand, when seemingly simple things like sounds, light and textures create a high level of distress, dealing with them can consume great time and energy, leaving less energy and time available for the rest of daily life.”
Dr. Barnes designed her CASIGY™ (Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive, Intense and/or Gifted You-s) Social-Emotional ACES Home Video Program™ “to help you become ACES, that is, skilled experts in the Social-Emotional arena.”
Learn more and see videos in article: Emotional Health Program for Creative, Gifted, Sensitive People.
Dealing with anxiety
Psychiatrist Judith Orloff M.D. works with many actors, to help them deal with stage fright or other forms of anxiety.
In her book Emotional Freedom, she suggests a number of strategies, including supplements and meditation, plus “avoiding caffeine and other stimulants, excessive sugar, and violent newscasts and films.”
For some of her clients, she does prescribe Inderal, at least temporarily – a medication to reduce stage fright by decreasing the fight or flight response.
In my interview with Dr. Orloff, she says, “a better way is that I teach everyone to do a three minute mini-meditation where they learn how to breathe, center themselves, let their thoughts flow by, and focus on something really nurturing and positive, which is a better way, I believe, to learn how to shift your anxiety and really own the moment.”
Hear the interview in post: Judith Orloff, MD on Emotional Freedom.
Sabotaging ourselves with drugs & drink
Actor Robert Downey Jr. has reportedly been clean and sober for a long time, but admits to a long history of drug abuse.
“For years I took pride in being resilient,” he says.
“But that turned into this guy who can get hit by a brickbat every morning and still look kind of cute.
“I mean, there’s ‘ready to be ready,’ and then there’s waking up in the morning feeling like you’ve been hit in the back with a sledgehammer.”
He is “very very very high maintenance,” he admits.
“Even without being the inventor of any of my own impediments from this day forward, it’s still tough, it’s still chaotic.”
[From Spinning into control by Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times August 28, 2005]
[Photo from his official Facebook page.]
Another talented actor, Michelle Rodriguez was released (years ago) from a Hawaii jail after being found guilty of drunk driving.
She said she was thankful for her arrest “because of the fact that I didn’t acknowledge my own behavior and how sporadic it was until all hell broke loose in my life.”
See more in my article Addiction and Creative People.
Many well-known artists – just like other people – experience mental and emotional health challenges, in some cases even mental illness.
More resources for emotional and mental health:
My site Anxiety Relief Solutions – Multiple drug-free self-help products and programs to relieve social anxiety, stage fright, performance anxiety and other forms of anxiety.
Emotional Health and Creativity on Facebook.
Emotional Health Resources – Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.
Mental and Emotional Health articles – by psychologists and others on helping to understand emotional and mental health challenges, plus suggestions to improve our health.
A few of the many articles:
- Highly Sensitive People and Depression
- How to Relieve Stress and Anxiety When You’re Creative and Highly Sensitive
- Dealing With Stress To Be More Creative
- Dealing With Worry and Anxiety To Be More Creative
- Depression: Helping Creativity or Suppressing?
- Do You Need to be Crazy to be Creative?
- Are Certain mental disorders linked to creative genius?
- Be More Creative With More Self Care