How Emma Stone Conquered Debilitating Anxiety as a Child

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Emma Stone may be America’s Sweetheart and one of the most adored actresses in Hollywood, but she wasn’t always the carefree, outgoing woman she is today.

The 28-year-old covers the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine and opens up about her struggle as a young girl to overcome debilitating anxiety.

“My brain, naturally zooming 30 steps ahead to the worst-case scenario,” she recalled. “When I was about seven, I was convinced the house was burning down. I could sense it. Not a hallucination, just a tightening in my chest, feeling I couldn’t breathe, like the world was going to end. There were some flare-ups like that, but my anxiety was constant.”

She continued, revealing, “I would ask my mom a hundred times how the day was gonna lay out. What time was she gonna drop me off? Where was she gonna be? What would happen at lunch? Feeling nauseous. At a certain point, I couldn’t go to friends’ houses anymore–I could barely get out the door to school.”

Mark Seliger for Rolling Stone

Therapy ended up helping her move forward from the anxiety, but creativity was what truly conquered it.

“I wrote this book called I Am Bigger Than My Anxiety that I still have: I drew a little green monster on my shoulder that speaks to me in my ear and tells me all these things that aren’t true,” she explained. “And every time I listen to it, it grows bigger. If I listen to it enough, it crushes me. But if I turn my head and keep doing what I’m doing—let it speak to me, but don’t give it the credit it needs—then it shrinks down and fades away.”

She also used acting as a means of separating from it. “I started acting at this youth theater, doing improv and sketch comedy,” she divulged. “You have to be present in improv, and that’s the antithesis of anxiety.”

Emma Stone

Mike Windle/Getty Image

In fact, acting has also helped her (and many of us) take the tragedies of life, heartbreak and obstacles and turn them into beautiful, often laughable life lessons on-screen.

“Combining heartbreak and comedy. That’s what life is, right? There’s still weird, funny shit that happens even when life is really dark,” she explained.

And that’s one thing she prides herself on—her humor—which is why she can sometimes become frustrated working in Hollywood with people who don’t always give her that credit.

“There are times in the past, making a movie, when I’ve been told that I’m hindering the process by bringing up an opinion or an idea,” Stone revealed. “I hesitate to make it about being a woman, but there have been times when I’ve improvised, they’ve laughed at my joke and then given it to my male co-star. Given my joke away.”

This type of power play is exactly why Stone found herself losing a bit of love for Los Angeles and ended up moving to New York.

“[L.A. is] what I imagine D.C. is like,” she explained, “Where you’re surrounded by all these people who are constantly rising and falling in the local power rankings, and it’s the only thing they can think and talk about.”

Interestingly enough, her latest film, La La Land, is focused on two dreamers trying to find their way in the City of Angels—a role that’s been stirring up Oscar talk lately.

“I’m trying not to think about that,” Stone admitted. “I just focus on what I’ve got to do at any one moment, and don’t necessarily think about where it’s all leading.”

Read her full Rolling Stone cover story here.

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