15 Actors You Didn't Know Struggled With Depression

After watching your favorite characters live their lives through a silver screen for so many years, sometimes it’s difficult to realize that these actors exist outside of the fantasy world in the real world of grit and dirt.

We tend to put celebrities on pedestals, assuming that they don’t have to muddle through the same pain, or even mental illness, that so many people experience.

Although anxiety and depression are common among actors and creative types, it isn’t what people typically associate with glamorous lives of Hollywood stars.

It's time to take a look at the actors who are dealing with or have dealt with depression outside of the spotlight and explore how they’ve managed to get through these struggles while maintaining their careers.

Here are the 15 Actors You Didn't Know Struggled With Depression.

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15 Jared Padalecki

While Jared Padalecki’s character on Supernatural spends his time battling demons to save the world, Padalecki himself has also spent a fair amount of time wrestling with his own internal demons. Padalecki actually was diagnosed with clinical depression after having an anxiety attack on the set of the popular show.

Because there is a lot of stigma around depression, especially among actors in Hollywood, Padalecki felt inspired to be very vocal about his illness.

In 2015 he launched his own charity, titled #AlwaysKeepFighting, where he sold over 24,000 t-shirts with proceeds going to support mental health organizations and create awareness.

Padalecki has also been very honest about how depression is not a simple diagnosis that just takes the condition away.

“I still deal with anxiety on a daily basis,” he has said. “A lot of artists are emotional beings, but we have to behave like, ‘Hey I’m great, I’m living the life!’ That’s what we think the audience wants.”

14 Kristen Bell

Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars with camera

Actress and comedian Kristen Bell recently came out in support of awareness for depression when she wrote a very personal essay published in TIME in 2016.

In the essay, Bell reveals that she began to experience depression when she was in college. “I felt plagued with a negative attitude and a sense that I was permanently in the shade,” she said. “I stopped feeling like myself.”

Bell explained that depression doesn’t follow logic-- you don’t have to have a reason to be depressed, it can occur even in times when you are successful or ambitious.

Bell kept her mental health issues a secret for the first 15 years of her career, but has recently felt inspired to share her struggles because she doesn’t believe anything like this should be taboo.

“There is a good chance you know someone who is struggling with [depression] since nearly 20% of American adults face some form of mental illness in their lifetime. So why aren’t we talking about it?” she said.

13 Jon Hamm

Hamm is most famous for playing a classic antihero on Mad Men, but most people were unaware until recently that the actor actually shared a few characteristics with his famous character after Hamm sought treatment for alcohol addiction in 2015.

Hamm confessed his struggle with depression after the death of his father when he was 20 in an interview with Observer in 2010.

“I was… unmoored by that. I struggled with chronic depression. I was in bad shape,” he said.

Hamm explained that, while antidepressants were not a magic fix for his condition, they did help him to stay motivated to be active in his life. He has also been very open about seeking therapy and the role it has played in his life and career.

“Medical attention is medical attention whether it’s for your elbow or for your teeth or for your brain,” he told InStyle. “We live in a world where to admit anything negative about yourself is seen as a weakness, when it’s actually a strength.”

12 Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in Heathers

Many people know Winona Ryder from her impressive filmography including movies like Little Women, Girl, Interrupted, and Edward Scissorhands, and even her latest comeback in the show Stranger Things.

However, Hollywood has largely overlooked Ryder’s vulnerability about her depression, which she began talking about in the 1990s.

Ryder first began experiencing anxiety attacks at the age of 12, which she thinks was likely brought on by the pressure and exhaustion that came with working in film at a young age. Ryder has sought therapy regularly for her depression, even dropping out of The Godfather: Part III because of anxiety and depression.

In recent years, Ryder has been very vocal about her mental illness and desires for more honesty in Hollywood about these issues. “I’m so sick of people shaming women for being sensitive or vulnerable,” she told New York Magazine. “It’s so bizarre to me.”

11 Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson is a legend in both American and British cinema, having created a legacy based on her acting prowess. In her personal life, however, she has struggled with mild depression for the majority of her life.

Thompson first underwent this struggle when she was playing the lead in the West End revival of Me and My Girl in the 1980s. She said that she couldn’t bring herself to answer the phone or even change her clothes.

Every night she would go into the theatre to smile and sing before returning to her apartment to completely turn off. She said, “The only thing I could do was write. I used to crawl from the bedroom to the computer and just sit and write, and then I was alright, because I was not present.”

Thompson has said that she still goes through bouts of depression, but her work-- which allows her to dive into different characters-- has helped her cope.

10 Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt War Machine Netflix

During the 1990s, Brad Pitt was making some of his most iconic movies, from Seven to Fight Club, but outside of the spotlight he was dealing with self-loathing and depression.

While hiding from the complications that come with being a celebrity, Pitt resorted to excessive drug use and isolation. He claimed that he would numb himself to sleep every night, hiding in his house.

“I used to deal with depression,” he told the Hollywood Reporter in 2012, “but I don’t now, not this decade – maybe last decade. But that’s also figuring out who you are. I see it as a great education, as one of the seasons or a semester: 'This semester I was majoring in depression.'”

According to Pitt, this period of depression was remedied somewhat when he took a trip to Casablanca, Morocco, where he witnessed poverty on a large scale, which motivated him to put his feelings of self-dissatisfaction to better use by getting involved with charities.

9 Ellen Degeneres

Carrie Fisher and Ellen DeGeneres

We now view the time Ellen Degeneres came out on her sitcom Ellen in 1997 as a time of great progress and achievement for gay rights and representation.

However, at the time, the event was a lot uglier. Degeneres’s personal life became a topic of debate, the target for jokes on late-night television, and the actress faced constant hate in the form of letters and harassment.

Degeneres lost her sitcom and was plunged into what she calls the darkest time of her life, filled with a lot of anger and depression.

Ellen underwent severe mood swings and isolation, which resulted in her break-up with actress Anne Heche and caused a halt in her professional life. The darkest part of her depression lasted for about three years and it wasn’t until she got the lovable part of Dory in Finding Nemo that she began to have hope for the future.

Degeneres also reportedly was helped in her personal life with professional counseling for her depression.

“I look on that period of losing it all as a gift,” Degeneres says now. “I was way too insecure and sensitive [before coming out] and I’m glad I lost that because that’s a heavy weight to carry around.”

8 Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey is an excellent example of the fact that, just because you are a comedian, this doesn't mean that you don’t struggle with the same depression that plagues millions of people.

Although Carrey had suffered from depression throughout his monumental career of films like Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura, and Bruce Almighty, it wasn’t until 2009 that he publicly talked about his illness.

Jim Carrey took antidepressants for years, allowing him to remain active in his life and work. “It feels like a low level of despair that you’re in. You’re not getting any answers but you’re living okay and smiling at the office,” he said.

Eventually, Carrey stopped taking medication, and abstained from drugs, alcohol, and even coffee, instead turning his focus toward spirituality as a source of healing.

7 Cara Delevingne

Valerian Teaser Trailer - Laureline - Cara Delevingne

Supermodel Cara Delevingne has recently made the transition to acting, with performances in Paper Towns, Suicide Squad, and most recently, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

However, while being the public face of so many brands and products, Delevingne was privately dealing with her own mental issues. According to an interview with Esquire, Delevingne’s depression was triggered when she was a teenager and learned about her mother’s drug addiction and had to take on a large responsibility in her family.

“I was suicidal,” she said. “I realized how lucky and privileged I was, but all I wanted to do was die. I felt so guilty because of that and hated myself because of that, and then it’s a cycle.”

When she was sixteen, Delevingne sought help and was put on medication that she claims might have saved her life.

Delevingne has been very open about her continued struggles with depression, talking about how it is an ongoing battle for her.

6 Russell Brand

Arthur Russell Brand remake comedy top hat

Professional actor and comedian Russell Brand is known for his sharp tongue and lightning-fast wit, but while his mind is probably his greatest asset as an entertainer, it is also the source of a lot of problems.

Brand was treated for depression when he was a young child, although he was suspected to have bipolar disorder as well. At age 11, Brand also became a bulimic, which stayed with him until adulthood.

His tendencies toward depression and self-harm eventually led to an addiction to heroin and other drugs with the rise of his stand-up career.

Brand was eventually fired from several jobs at MTV and radio, leading him to check in to a rehab facility where he was told that he would die or end up in prison or a mental asylum if he didn’t stop doing drugs. Brand found success and improvement in rehab and was able to reenter the public as an actor and comedian.

Following the suicide of Chris Cornell this year, Brand spoke up and urged men to be open about their depression in order to receive help from clear communication.

5 Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft Tomb Raider

In 2015, actress and philanthropist Angelina Jolie began opening up about her experiences battling depression in her teenage years, which she attributes to growing up in her “unhealthy” hometown of Los Angeles.

Like many people, Jolie underwent feelings of guilt for her condition, not being able to understand why she didn’t just feel happy about her successes at a young age.

“I was raised in a place where if you have fame and money and you’re decent-looking and have the ability to work in this industry, you have everything in the world,” she told the Wall Street Journal in 2015. “Then you attain those things and realize you still couldn’t be more empty.”

Jolie was eventually able to work through her depression by seeking connections with the characters she played and through her humanitarian work. Jolie began working UNHCR in 2001 as a goodwill ambassador and has continued to support various charity organizations throughout her career.

4 Sarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman Star Trek Voyager

Comedian and actress Sarah Silverman has shared her experiences with depression through her comedy since the beginning of her career. In 2015, Silverman gave an especially poignant interview to Glamour, in which she explained her history with the illness and how she has managed it in the past.

Silverman said that she first experienced depression when she was 13 and was unable to go to school for months and began experiencing panic attacks.

She remembers telling her stepfather what her depression felt like, saying “It feels like I’m desperately homesick, but I’m home.”

Silverman once again went through a depressive episode while living in New York City and working for Saturday Night Live, and began going to therapy and taking medication, which she says saved her life.

Currently, Silverman has learned to “ride the waves” of her depression as best she can with a small dose of medication and therapy.

In 2015, Silverman achieved critical acclaim for her performance in the independent film I Smile Back as a mother dealing with depression and addiction, a part which originally terrified her to take on because it reflected some of her own experiences.

3 Zach Braff

Zach Braff in Scrubs

Zach Braff is probably best known for his goofy character on the hit show Scrubs, but the actor-director has also made a name for himself in the world of film with works like Garden State.

Braff’s brand of humor examines the blend of drama and comedy, diving into the comedy that can be found even in feelings of pain and being lost, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that Braff has undergone times of depression himself.

He claims that his depression is something he deals with, although it isn’t always severe. “Anyone who suffers from depression knows that it hits you at times like the flu,” he said.

Braff has also discussed the apparent connection between creative people and depression, saying that it often makes for good art, or could come from the realization that “this life is it,” and wondering if we are using our time wisely.

2 Kirsten Dunst

Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane in Spider-Man

Kirsten Dunst has been in the public eye for almost her whole life. Since she began acting at six years old and modeling at three, she has been privy to the intense pressures and scrutiny of the public eye, which she has said led to her experience with depression.

Dunst checked into the Cirque Lodge rehabilitation facility in Utah in 2008 in order to deal with the depression that she was suffering from for years.

After leaving rehab, Dunst has spoken openly about society’s impossible expectations of actors and the effect this can have on them, explaining that actors are expected to be perfectly well-spoken and thick-skinned while simultaneously needing to be sensitive and emotionally available to do their jobs.

Dunst was able to channel her experiences into art with her role in Melancholia, in which she played a severely depressed woman.

“People don’t really talk about depression, so for me it was really amazing that this was going to be portrayed,” she told British ELLE.

1 Kerry Washington

Kerry Washington in Scandal - Olivia Pope's Most Badass Moments

Kerry Washington has made a name for herself both in the world of television and film, particularly with her leading character on the show Scandal, but her worldly success has not made her immune to internal issues of depression.

In an interview with Essence, Washington revealed that she first began to succumb to depression after the film Ray was released to the public.

Washington began to realize that, along with her lack of anonymity, she was losing privacy and felt trapped and powerless in her career. This, in combination with her mother being diagnosed with breast cancer, caused Washington to slip into depression.

In 2004, Washington and her fiancé traveled to Thailand for a vacation where they narrowly escaped the destruction of their hotel by a tsunami in Bangkok. This harrowing experience changed everything for Washington, causing her to look for ways to be a “positive participant” in her own life.

In addition to this, Washington has continued to seek help from a therapist, which she has made a point to make public in order to reduce stigma about mental illness.

“My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth. I go to the dentist. So why wouldn’t I go to a shrink?” she told Glamour.


What do you think? Did you know that these actors suffered from depression? Should mental illness really be as stigmatized as it is? Sound off in the comments.

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