Katherine Heigl says taking medication for her mental health 'saved my life'

Katherine Heigl says taking medication for her mental health ‘saved my life’

The actress opens up about her mental health, helping break down the stigma surrounding psychiatric medicine.

Getty Images

Getty Images

When you’re struggling with your mental health, it can feel overwhelming — something Katherine Heigl sounds familiar with. Heigl recently opened up about how she uses medication, among other holistic measures, to deal with her mental health in an interview with Yahoo! Life.

Heigl’s “people-pleasing” tendencies caused a lot of “mental instability” earlier in her career, she shared. This was exacerbated by the sexist and unfair media coverage she received at the time, causing her to develop “horrible neuroses and anxiety”, explained the 27 Dresses actress.

“I was at an incredibly high level of anxiety…trying to be the perfect person to not ruffle the feathers,” she said. Yahoo! Life. Conversations surrounding Heigl in her thirties put the actress in a “super lonely place.”

Now 43, she wishes she had known it was okay to seek mental health treatment sooner, she explained in a recent interview. Part of that treatment currently includes taking medication, which “essentially saved my life,” Heigl revealed.

It’s not the first time that path of the fireflies star opened up about taking medication for his mental health. In August 2022, the star told Parade that she started taking Zoloft, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that helps increase levels of serotonin (aka the mood regulating hormone) in the brain on the advice of a therapist. Medications such as Zoloft can help ease symptoms of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

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“I worked really hard to control my anxiety for years and really struggled,” Heigl said. Parade. She “was really reluctant to take medication”, instead relying on holistic methods such as prayer, meditation, holding crystals and long walks in nature. “I tried everything to stop him, but my mind took over — the terrifying part, not the good part,” she admitted.

Once she started taking medication, Heigl started to feel some relief very quickly, she explained. Now the Grey’s Anatomy alum has found a combination of natural mood boosters, medications, and talk therapy helpful. This is something that many experts recommend for people suffering from anxiety and depression.

How do medications help with anxiety?

ICYDK, antidepressant medications such as Zoloft can provide both short-term and long-term relief by helping to stimulate certain neurotransmitters (i.e. chemicals that help send messages between brain cells), including serotonin and dopamine, Zishan Khan, MD, psychiatrist at Mindpath Health, tells Form. “Medications can be crucial in reducing the intensity of the anxiety response one has on a daily basis by leveling these neurotransmitters or enhancing their effects in the brain, mitigating or preventing potentially debilitating or disruptive anxiety.”

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Curious if you could benefit from prescription medication? “If you have anxiety that feels debilitating or that interferes with your ability to fully participate in your life, medication may offer more immediate symptom relief and help you feel more like yourself and able to live a normal life,” says Anisha Patel-Dunn, DO, psychiatrist and chief medical officer of LifeStance Health. “For some people, medication is the only thing that can provide enough relief to keep them functioning and feeling their best.”

The first step toward taking medication for mental health issues is seeing a licensed mental health professional, says Dr. Patel-Dunn. Additionally, research shows that treating depression and anxiety with medication and talk therapy may be more effective than either method alone, she adds.

Breaking the Stigma

Talking about mental health can be difficult, in large part because of the lingering stigmas that surround it. “Many people experience shame because they feel weak that they cannot manage their anxiety on their own,” says Dr Khan.

While progress has been made to de-stigmatize mental health care, more needs to be done, adds Dr. Patel-Dunn. “The truth is, mental health is just as important as physical health,” she says. “And just as drugs are used as a tool to treat disease and injury to help [you] feel [your] better, it is also a crucially important tool to support [your] mental and emotional well-being.”

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Heigl’s outspokenness as a public figure is particularly significant in changing the public mindset regarding the use of drugs for mental health issues. “It helps others realize they are not alone,” says Dr Khan. “You’re not abnormal to have difficulty controlling your anxiety…Even the rich and famous face similar difficulties,” he continues. “It normalizes mental health disorders and encourages the general population to seek help and not avoid solving their problems.”

Hopefully, Heigl’s recent comments can help others struggling with mental health issues feel less alone and seek the help they need.

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