Rose Byrne, the 31-year-old Australian actress featured in the new comedy, Bridesmaids, recently revealed a history of anxiety and panic attacks.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Byrne described past struggles with feelings of losing control and “going insane", stating that her anxiety stemmed from fears that she would not be able to find new work as an actress. She credited her participation in a course on how to deal with panic attacks, which she attended a few years ago in Sydney, in helping her recover.

Her panic attacks, occurring in her early 20's, were classic, she said, with cold sweats, shakes, numbness and heart palpitations along with extreme and overwhelming anxiety. She described deep-seated yet uncontrollable fears.

Things Have Gotten Better, but She Still Experiences Anxiety Sometimes

She still experiences heightened moments of anxiety and nervousness, particularly amongst crowds, but said that she is much better able to control her feelings now. Despite still lacking confidence, she noted that she nonetheless pursues challenging roles and embraces the fear and discomfort they generate because they help her become a better actress. She did suggest, though, that when the fear becomes too intense, it can interfere with creative expression and should be treated.

The young star began her acting career at the age of 15 in an Australian film, later appearing in various television shows there as well. Her first Hollywood appearance came in 2002 alongside Natalie Portman in the second Star Wars movie. She is also known for her role as Ellen Parsons, opposite Glenn Close, in the FX television series Damages.

She is currently co-starring in the newly released Judd Apatow film, Bridesmaids, an unabashedly raunchy, female-centered comedy. Byrne plays a snooty, uptight bridesmaid who is jealous of the maid of honor's role at a friend's upcoming wedding. The film has been critically acclaimed, exceeding expectations and grossing over $26 million on its opening weekend.

The Crippling Nature of a Panic Attack

Panic attacks are characterized by brief episodes of extreme fear that a terrible event is likely to occur. Identified as an anxiety disorder, the attacks usually begin abruptly with symptoms including chest pain, nausea, sweating, shaking and palpitations. While the attacks themselves are not dangerous, the person experiencing it is often unable to recognize it as a psychological reaction and feels he or she is in great danger; the very real, physical symptoms that accompany the attack understandably contribute to such a response.

When they occur often and cause ongoing fears of new attacks, panic disorder may be diagnosed. Patients are typically treated with varying forms of talk therapy either with or without medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be particularly effective in the treatment of panic disorders, helping the patient to understand the association between thoughts feelings and behaviors.

Medications that increase serotonin are also sometimes helpful in treating panic attacks. Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in regulating mood and anxiety. Scientists believe an imbalance of the chemical is associated with anxiety and depression. As each individual's case is unique, a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified specialist is necessary to determine the most appropriate treatment.

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Sigal Sharf
Sigal Sharf


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