In the past few years, many celebs have been opening up about their struggles with depression and anxiety—everyone from Demi Lovato to Kristen Bell to Katy Perry. Not only is it reassuring to hear that famous people can have the same reactions to stress and sadness that we do, but it’s also super admirable that they’re using their platforms to raise awareness about mental health issues, which don’t always get as much attention as they deserve. The latest celeb to share her story is Amanda Seyfried, in an interview with Allure.
In the story, she discusses how renovating her house was a struggle because she wanted to put a kitchen in for guests but didn’t want to install an oven or stove for fear that it might burn the whole place down. This fear was partially due to her obsessive-compulsive disorder, which causes people to have uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts and behaviors that they feel the urge to repeat over and over, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. On whether she’s medicated for the disorder, Seyfried told Allure, “Yeah. 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.” Fair enough. It’s common for people with serious mental illnesses to remain on medication for their entire lives, so Seyfried’s point of view is not unusual. She goes on to say she totally doesn’t buy into the stigma around using a tool like medication to deal with mental illness. In other words, if you need it, you should take it—end of story.
On the topic of mental illness in general, she emphasizes that “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.” Seyfried also shares that her OCD caused her to have major health anxiety, to the point that she was worried she had a brain tumor. “I had an MRI, and the neurologist referred me to a psychiatrist,” she said. “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.” (FYI, here’s what living with OCD is really like.)
OCD is often misunderstood., explains Scott Carroll, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico. Being super type A and organized—which a lot of people mean when they say “OCD”—is actually very different. “With OCD, your need for organization has to be so extreme that it is a serious problem and causes far more harm than good,” he says. “What confuses people about OCD is that there are two forms of it: classic obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD).” OCPD is what people usually think of as OCD: being hyper-organized and being obsessed with following the rules. OCD, on the other hand, “manifests as a distressing, intrusive thought (like thinking you’re contaminated by germs or have a brain tumor) that then has to be blocked or prevented by some ritual (like washing your hands in a precise way a specific number of times).”
Truth is, it’s easy to confuse both OCD and OCPD with other anxiety disorders. “For example, people with generalized anxiety disorder can have overwhelming worries about having a brain tumor if they have recurrent headaches, which looks very similar to someone with OCD who has an intrusive thought that they have a brain tumor,” says Carroll. The good news is, the same type of medication (SSRI drugs like Lexapro) is used to treat all of these conditions. So if you’ve got more than one, the same treatment applies.
One thing’s certain: Hearing Seyfried’s account of what it’s like to live with the disorder definitely drives the point home that it’s really tough stuff. We say kudos to her for putting it out there and making her voice heard.