The Grey’s Anatomy alum worked really hard at controlling her anxiety for years and struggled. In this Shape article, Mindpath Health’s Zishan Khan, MD, helps discuss Zoloft and why it’s used to treat anxiety and depression.
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.
Now 43, she wishes she’d known it was okay to seek mental health treatment earlier on. 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, which 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,” says Heigl. She “was really reluctant to take any medication,” instead relying on holistic methods such as prayer, meditation, holding crystals, and taking long nature walks.
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?
Antidepressant medications such as Zoloft can provide relief in the short- and long-term by helping boost certain neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, says Zishan Khan, M.D., a psychiatrist with Mindpath Health.
“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.”
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.
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.”
Read the full Shape article with sources.