Katherine Heigl Said Taking Medication for Her Mental Health 'Saved My Life'

The actress is opening up about her mental health, helping to chip away at the stigma surrounding psychiatric medicine.

Katherine Heigl
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When you're struggling with your mental health, it can feel all-consuming — something that Katherine Heigl is seemingly familiar with. Heigl recently opened up about how she uses medication, among other holistic measures, to cope with her mental health in an interview with Yahoo! Life.

Heigl's "people pleaser" tendencies caused a lot of "mental instability" earlier in her career, she shared. This was exacerbated by the sexist and unfair press coverage she received at the time, leading her to develop "horrible neuroses and anxiety," explained the 27 Dresses actress.

"I was at such an incredibly heightened level of anxiety…trying to be the perfect person to not ruffle any feathers," she told Yahoo! Life. The chatter surrounding Heigl in her 30s put the actress in a "super lonely place."

Now 43, she wishes she'd known it was okay to seek mental health treatment earlier on, she explained in the recent interview. Part of that treatment currently includes taking medication, which "essentially saved my life," revealed Heigl.

This isn't the first time the Firefly Lane star has opened up about taking medication for her mental health. Back in August 2022, the star told Parade that she began taking Zoloft, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that helps increase levels of serotonin (aka the mood-regulating hormone) in the brain at the advice of a therapist. Medications such as Zoloft can help alleviate the symptoms of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.

"I worked really hard at controlling my anxiety for years and really struggled," Heigl told Parade. She "was really reluctant to take any medication," instead relying on holistic methods such as prayer, meditation, holding crystals, and taking long nature walks. "I tried everything to stop it, but my mind just took over — the terrifying part, not the good part," she admitted.

Once she began taking medication, Heigl began to feel some relief very quickly, she explained. Now, the Grey's Anatomy alum has found a combination of natural mood-boosters, medication, and talk therapy helpful. It's something many experts recommend for those dealing with anxiety and depression.

How does medication help with anxiety?

ICYDK, antidepressant medications such as Zoloft can provide relief in the short- and long-term by helping boost certain neurotransmitters (aka chemicals that help send messages between the brain cells), including serotonin and dopamine, Zishan Khan, M.D., a psychiatrist with Mindpath Health, tells Shape. "Medication can be crucial in lessening the intensity of the anxiety response one has on a day-to-day basis by leveling out these neurotransmitters or boosting their effects in the brain, lessening or preventing potentially debilitating or disruptive anxiety."

Curious how to know if you might benefit from prescription medication? "If you are experiencing anxiety that feels debilitating or hinders your ability to participate in your life fully, medication can offer more immediate relief from symptoms and help you feel more like yourself and able to live normally," says Anisha Patel-Dunn, D.O., psychiatrist and chief medical officer at LifeStance Health. "For some people, medication is the only thing that can provide enough relief for them to function and feel their best."

The first step toward taking medication for mental health struggles is to consult a licensed mental health professional, says Dr. Patel-Dunn. Additionally, research shows that treating depression and anxiety with both medication and talk therapy can be more effective than either method on its own, she adds.

Shattering the Stigma

Talking about mental health can be tough, in large part due to the ongoing stigmas surrounding it. "Many people experience shame because they feel they are weak for not being able to manage their anxiety on their own," says Dr. Khan.

While progress has been made to destigmatize mental health care, there's still more to be done, adds Dr. Patel-Dunn. "The truth is that mental health is just as important as physical health," she says. "And just like medication is used as a tool to treat illnesses and injuries to help [you] feel [your] best, it is also a critically important tool to support [your] mental and emotional well-being."

Heigl's candor as a public figure is especially important in shifting the public's mindset around using medication for mental health issues. "It helps others realize they are not alone," says Dr. Khan. "You are not abnormal for having difficulty in controlling your anxiety...Even people that are rich and famous deal with similar struggles," he continues. "It normalizes mental health disorders and encourages the general population to seek help and not avoid addressing their problems."

Hopefully Heigl's recent comments can help others dealing with mental health feel less alone and seek the help they need.

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