Britney Spears explains how ‘overwhelming’ anxiety caused her 2007 breakdown

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Kayleigh Dray
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Thanks to social media, we all know a little something about the pressure that comes from having our lives thrust under a magnifying glass: it forces many of us to present our best selves to the world, or shove all of our issues to one side and put on a “public face”.

It’s unsurprising, then, that these platforms have proven, time and time again, to be bad for our mental health: researchers have evidence that shows that the likes of Snapchat and Instagram drive feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression in young people.

So imagine how Britney Spears – who started her career at the tender age of 16 – must have felt when she found herself and her personal life unceremoniously thrust under the spotlight.

After bursting into the charts – and the tabloids – with Hit Me Baby One More Time, Spears admitted that she started out life as “a pretty normal girl”. However, when she hit her twenties, things changed for the worse.

“From an early age I always felt that everyone was testing me,” she explained to Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot. “If [something] was not in place, it would have been enough to get me to this point of anxiety.

“I could get overwhelmed by a lot of very small, disproportionate things.”

Referring to her highly-publicised breakdown in 2007, Spears went on to admit that it completely changed her outlook on life – and she has made a conscious choice to put her emotional wellbeing above her career, in order to take back control of her anxiety and her mental health.

“I think I had to give myself more breaks through my career and take responsibility for my mental health,” she said.

“There were many decisions that were made for me and that I didn’t make myself.”

When asked if she had been overprotected by people close to her, Britney elaborated: "Something like that.

“My life was too much under the control of too many people, and it really does not allow you to be yourself. So, when you’re not in control, you’re less excited, less passionate about doing everything. I did not know what to do with myself, and I tried to please the people around me a lot, because in my heart I am a Philistine.

“There are moments where I look back and think: ‘What the hell was I thinking?’”

Spears finished by saying: “Every one of us who starts at a young age has to take into account that we have to be able to balance our personal and professional lives in order to stay in this industry – and, sometimes, this balancing question is very challenging.

“I think I was a different person then, young, and I did not always know instinctively what was good and what was wrong.

“I am in a much better place in my life, and the two children shaped my personality, filled me, made me less worried about what is happening to me.”

Mental health is an issue that affects many of us, but women in particular can be vulnerable to issues: the most recent figures from the NHS show that one in five women in the UK have reported a mental illness in recent years, compared to one in eight men – and anxiety is now the most common mental health condition.

Anxiety symptoms are often hard for sufferers to put into words; there is usually a sense of danger or threat, of not being able to cope with what might happen – a “nameless dread” that provokes such physically real symptoms that it can be utterly debilitating for sufferers.

The severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person, and can include:

  • Restlessness
  • A sense of dread
  • Feeling constantly “on edge”
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Heart palpitations

However, while there is still some stigma around opening up about our emotional wellbeing, experts urge people to seek help when they need it: anxiety, for example, is highly treatable.

If you suffer from anxiety, experts advise that you visit you GP to explore the number of treatments available.

You can find out more information – including a series of approved self-care tips – on the Mind website.

Images: Rex Features


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.