Selena Gomez has been adored since age 7, starring in hit TV shows and movies, singing to sold-out stadiums, and becoming the official queen of social media. But one reason we adore her has nothing to do with her skills nor her fame — no, it has everything to do with the way the 24-year-old has been increasingly transparent regarding her mental health issues and making sure to put her health and happiness over everything else.
In her first cover of Vogue, Gomez got real about her battle with anxiety, the stigma that makes it so difficult for people to get help, and how taking time for herself has changed her life for the better.
"People so badly wanted me to be authentic. And when that happened, finally, it was a huge release," Gomez told Vogue. "I'm not different from what I put out there. I've been very vulnerable with my fans, and sometimes I say things I shouldn't. But I have to be honest with them. I feel that's a huge part of why I'm where I am."
Touring Made Her Anxiety Worse
As a musician, Gomez regularly releases new music and goes on tours, which might sound like a fun time to us, but for her, tours are a "really lonely place." She explained how her "self-esteem was shot" while touring and she often felt depressed and anxious.
"I started to have panic attacks right before getting onstage, or right after leaving the stage," Gomez said. "Basically I felt I wasn't good enough, wasn't capable. I felt I wasn't giving my fans anything, and they could see it — which, I think, was a complete distortion."
So She Took Time Off for Her Mental Health
At the conclusion of her Revival world tour in August 2016, Gomez checked into a psychiatric treatment facility near Nashville, Tennessee.
"As many of you know, around a year ago I revealed that I have lupus, an illness that can affect people in different ways," Gomez told People at the time. "I've discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges."
She continued: "I want to be proactive and focus on maintaining my health and happiness and have decided that the best way forward is to take some time off. Thank you to all my fans for your support. You know how special you are to me, but I need to face this head on to ensure I am doing everything possible to be my best. I know I am not alone by sharing this, I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues."
How Therapy Changed Her Life
At the facility in Tennessee, Gomez underwent a 90-day treatment with a small group of young women in individual therapy and group therapy, and she unplugged from her cell phone.
"You have no idea how incredible it felt to just be with six girls, real people, who couldn't give two sh*ts about who I was, who were fighting for their lives," she told Vogue. "It was one of the hardest things I've done, but it was the best thing I've done."
It was one of the hardest things I've done, but it was the best thing I've done.
But the support of others wasn't the only thing that helped Gomez: She also discovered dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that was initially developed to help treat borderline personality disorder (a condition "marked by a pattern of ongoing instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning," according to the National Institute of Mental Health) but is now used to treat other mental illnesses, as well, including binge eating disorder and depression.
Through both individual and group sessions, DBT looks at a patient's emotional responses and interpersonal skills, and then uses communication, acceptance, and mindfulness practices to help the patients learn how to better cope with intense emotions and develop healthy relationships, according to a widely cited 2006 paper on DBT.
"DBT has completely changed my life," Gomez said. "I wish more people would talk about therapy. We girls, we're taught to be almost too resilient, to be strong and sexy and cool and laid-back; the girl who's down. We also need to feel allowed to fall apart."
She's Back at Work
Although she still makes sure to see her therapist five days a week, Gomez is back at work on numerous film, fashion, and music projects. She made her return to the public eye in November 2016 at the American Music Awards where she gave an impassioned speech about about her mental health struggles.
Her latest project is as an executive producer for the new Netflix series "13 Reason Why," which will debut later this month. She's personally attached to the adaptation of the young adult novel because of the subject matter, she explained on Instagram.
"What 13 reasons why has represented was an authentic story of what every kid deals with in every day life. The pressure, the unrealistic expectations of what they believe they should be," she wrote. "People are hurting and deserve to be heard. Tired of others portraying a false idea of what every day life is. I hope @13reasonswhy can enlighten people to what words mean when you say them."