Finding Authenticity in a Mind that Thinks Unalike

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One in five children struggles with a mental health disorder. Emma Stone was just one of the 17 million children with a mental disorder when she was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder — the most common mental health disorder in adolescents — at the age of seven. However, the Academy Award-winning actress did not let this disorder define her or her future.

Stone sat down with child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute, at the Target Media Network Stage to discuss mental health and Stone’s personal journey with anxiety.

Stone opened up by first reflecting on her encounter with anxiety as a child. When she was seven, she had her first panic attack at a friend’s house and could no longer sleep over because of fear of separation from her mom. The problem only worsened, and she went to the nurse every day during lunch at school because she became too anxious. Therapy helped Stone, but Koplewicz states that every case is unique, and treatment is dependent on the individual. Eighty-one percent, however, become better after being treated with evidence-based anxiety treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Koplewicz and Stone discussed the importance of finding one’s community and other like-minded through a sport. For Stone, her sport was acting, and she recommends all with a disorder to find their niche and their team. Acting was the creative outlet that Stone needed and expressing the feelings she held inside helped her anxiety.

Even when first starting out as a child actor in community theatre, her anxiety was not critically affected if she made a mistake on stage because she was comfortable playing a character. She started to have sleepovers with her friends once again, but at the age of fifteen, decided to follow her calling, pushed her anxiety to the side and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting.

After auditioning and not getting a career-changing role right away, Stone persevered and kept trying. When she does not get a role today, she trusts her instincts and guts and relies heavily on her support team. Stone continues to use her anxiety to her advantage, though, and believes her sensitivity is a superpower that positivity affects her acting. She states that it makes her more empathetic and want to dig into who the character she is cast to play truly is.

Acting has taught Stone a lot about her anxiety and herself. She tries to let little things go more easily, practices self-care — such as meditation —and enjoys opening up about her personal journey with audiences. She still attends a therapist, and even though the busy schedule of acting can negatively affect her anxiety, she remembers that acting is the one thing in life that makes her the happiest.

Stone is more in control of her disorder now, though, because she sought out the help she needed and stays authentic to herself and dreams.

“It’s not me, but it’s a part of me,” said Stone.

Stone has changed the narrative and stands as an example for others that it is just as normal for great minds to think unalike as it is  for normal to think alike.

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