Kristen Bell opens up about her history with mental illness

Every year, it’s estimated that 1 in 5 United States-based adults cope with mental illness. This adds up to a whopping 43.8 million people. Considering that so many individuals deal with mental health issues, it’s important they know they’re not alone. That’s why seeing celebrities like Kristen Bell sharing their own stories matters.

“I’m extremely co-dependent,” Kristen told Off Camera. “I shatter a little bit when I think people don’t like me. That’s part of why I lead with kindness and I compensate by being very bubbly all the time because it really hurts my feelings when I know I’m not liked. And I know that’s not very healthy and I fight it all the time.”

Though she was popular in school, Kristen explains that she was always nervous on the inside. To get people to like her, she would change who she was and alter her interests based on what her peers were passionate about. On top of this self-doubt, she also struggled with her mental health…

“I also struggled a lot with anxiety and depression,” Bell states. “My mom sat me down when I was probably 18 and she said, ‘There is a serotonin imbalance in our family line and it can often be passed from female to female.’” In fact, electroshock therapy was tested on Kristen’s grandmother, who would lock herself in her bedroom and drink for days. Her loved ones would have to slide food under the door for her and this understandably devastated Kristen’s mom.

Though Bell’s mother had a rough time coping with her mother’s mental illness, that didn’t stop her from communicating with her own daughter about this important part of their lives. Kristen reveals, “[My mom’s] a nurse and she had the wherewithal to recognize that in herself when she was feeling it and when I was 18 said, ‘If you start to feel like you are twisting things around you, and you feel like there is no sunlight around you, and you are paralyzed with fear, this is what it is and here’s how you can help yourself.’”

Even though Kristen portrays a bubbly personality, she also does a lot of introspective work behind-the-scenes. To help her manage her anxiety and depression, Bell takes medication (which is something she’s been doing since she was “really young”). “I have no shame in that because my mom had said to me, ‘If you start to feel this way, talk to your doctor, talk to a psychologist, see how you want to help yourself, and if you do decide to go on a prescription to help yourself, understand that the world wants to shame you for that, but in the medical community, you would never deny a diabetic his insulin. Ever,’” says Kristen, adding: “But for some reason, when someone needs a serotonin inhibitor, they’re immediately crazy or something.”

In recognizing this inherent double standard, Kristen wants to talk about her own experience with mental illness – especially because she feels no shame whatsoever (and rightfully so). It’s also refreshing to hear about her mom’s proactive attitude, which ultimately allowed her daughter to live a happy, healthy life.

To find your own mental health resources, you can visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

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