Ashley Tisdale opens up about having anxiety and depression: ‘We all are battling something’

Rachel Grumman Bender

Ashley Tisdale is opening up about coping with anxiety in secret for years, as well as how her mental health inspired her latest album, Symptoms.

“I’ve always had anxiety, my whole life,” Tisdale tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I definitely wasn’t vocal about it.”

With a successful career in the entertainment business starting when she was just 3 years old, many fans likely wouldn’t have guessed that the singer, actress, film producer and CEO of Illuminate Cosmetics, who says she’s a “natural performer,” has had a lifelong struggle with anxiety, including panic attacks.

“I didn’t feel like people really understood what I was going through or wouldn’t understand,” she says. “It’s just scary to kind of put yourself out there, and I think for the first time my fans are actually getting to know me for who I am versus a character I’ve played.”

She adds: “We all are battling something. Every single one of us. No one is perfect, even though Instagram makes it look perfect.”

For Tisdale, her anxiety showed up in ways she didn’t expect. “When I was younger and I was on tour, I would talk about my heart fluttering,” she says. “I remember actually having a really bad panic attack right before I would go onstage. No one had told me, ‘You’re suffering from anxiety.’”

It wasn’t until Tisdale read a book about being present that she realized what she’d been feeling all along was anxiety. But awareness wasn’t enough to make those feelings and the debilitating panic attacks go away.

Ashely Tisdale is opening up about having anxiety for years and how that inspired her latest album, <em>Symptoms</em>. (Photo: Getty Images)
Ashely Tisdale is opening up about having anxiety for years and how that inspired her latest album, Symptoms. (Photo: Getty Images)

“There’s moments when I’ll be in a pitch meeting and I just am silently having a panic attack because I can’t interrupt this meeting we’re having,” she says. “And that to me is some of the most painful parts because you’re just, like, frozen.”

Tisdale shares that she also experienced depression because of her anxiety and the struggle of “trying to not feel this way.” After trying different self-help books, she found ways to cope, thanks to the program, Attacking Anxiety and Depression by Lucinda Bassett. “I’ve been able to manage my anxiety and I haven’t had depression [since] so I would say that’s an amazing book,” Tisdale says.

She credits the program with helping her get over a “fear of failure,” which got her back in the recording studio and making music again. “Sometimes when we have this fear, no matter what the experience was before, we’ll stop ourselves from doing something that could be great. Personally, I just had a fear of doing another album again. I wanted to so badly and wanted to be back in music.”

But along with working on her mental health, Tisdale knew she would also have to be inspired by something to create a new album. It was through a conversation with Tisdale’s co-writer, Rachel West, talking about the anxiety and depression Tisdale had been dealing with, that was the inspiration behind the first song, “Symptoms,” on her latest album of the same name. “This is my journey through anxiety and depression and each song is a symptom of that,” she says.

Tisdale released her newest single from that album, “Love Me & Let Me Go,” on Jan. 25.

The songwriting process wasn’t cathartic only for Tisdale. It’s also her way of reaching out to others who are coping with depression or anxiety. “I just wanted to make someone feel less alone at home,” she says. “For me, music helps me so much. I can put on a song and just feel so much better about my day. I wanted to do that for someone else to where if they’re struggling with anxiety or depression that they could relate and that they’re not alone — because I go through the same thing.”

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