Acting While on Antidepressants

August 23, 2015

There are many schools of thought and different philosophies as it concerns the question of what makes great acting? But it is universally held that great acting starts with dynamic and sensitive emotions combined with a compelling physical presence. Actors are expected to be highly emotional and psychologically explosive. Indeed, some actors are so impassioned and creatively zealous, they sadly end up addicted to drugs or in an early grave. Think Heath Ledger or Paul Walker or Philip Seymour Hoffman or Brittany Murphy or Cory Monteith or Amanda Bynes–and the list goes on. Could these sensitive souls have benefited from antidepressant drugs? Some of them were likely taking SSRI’s or other medicines to treat depression and anxiety, but then again some of them may not have been. Taking medications is a deeply personal choice and private matter that the public need not know about. 

But what is it like having to act on stage or film while taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety tablets? Well, the answer to this question is as diverse as the individuals who takes these meds; people are not all biochemically identical, and drugs have a wide range of effects on the end user. But generally speaking, most antidepressants are meant to lift one’s mood and stabilize personality. Users commonly “feel better” and are less prone to erratic mood swings. But it is often reported that it can be more difficult to cry, to feel excitement, to relate in an emotional way, or even to feel extremes in normal experience. As a result, an actor’s ability to wear his or her proverbial “heart on your sleeve” for the benefit of audiences everywhere could be compromised.

This is certainly not to say that someone who is clinically depressed should not take medications that are available and possibly necessary to one’s happiness and survival; but, it is important to know what you are taking, and to understand the benefits and side effects of these powerful pharmaceuticals. Clearly, taking care of mental and emotional health is a priority. It is only to highlight that for actors, as their emotions are at the core of their work, have an added consideration in this regard.

If you’re thinking about taking antidepressants for depression or anxiety, make sure to consult your doctor concerning quantity and dose, and be sure to mention you’re an actor! And keep in mind, you’re in good company. Some actors have come forward to share their experiences with antidepressants. According to reports, for instance, Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm battled chronic depression after his father passed; he found that a structured environment, therapy, and antidepressants were key to pulling out of this challenging time. The outrageously expressive Jim Carrey once shared his history with depression and being on Prozac to help him pull through the hard time. And actress Lorraine Bracco, the psychiatrist from The Sopranos, has spoken openly about her battle with depression and how antidepressants and talk therapy helped her overcome it. And the list goes on and on.