Corinne Foxx on being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder: 'I've had the same therapist since I was 14'

·6-min read
Corinne Foxx opens up about being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at age 14, how meditation and therapy have helped her and why she's raising awareness about mental health with NAMI. (Photo: Getty Images; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Corinne Foxx opens up about being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at age 14, how meditation and therapy have helped her and why she's raising awareness about mental health with NAMI. (Photo: Getty Images; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

From the outside, Corinne Foxx's childhood seemed pretty idyllic: all-American high school cheerleader; superstar dad. Aged just 11, she was a scene-stealer at the 2005 Oscars when her father, Jamie Foxx, shared a sweet anecdote about her during his Best Actor acceptance speech. Within three years, however, she'd be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder — something she didn't share publicly for almost a decade.

"When I was 14 years old, I remember I was sitting in my English class and my heart was pounding out of my chest and my palms were sweaty and I was imagining all of these terrible scenarios, like a plane crashing into my school," the actress, producer and TV personality tells Yahoo Life's The Unwind. "And I realized, this isn't normal. I don't think the other kids are experiencing the thoughts and the feelings that I'm having."

She feels fortunate that she had the "wherewithal" to let her parents know how she was struggling, something most 14-year-olds might have resisted.

"I said, 'I'm not feeling well. And I'm feeling so bad that I don't even want to go to school,'" says Foxx. "And that was kind of their red flag where they were like, 'OK, let's figure this out.' They found a therapist for me and I've had the same therapist since I was 14 — and I'm 28 now. So I'm about to pass the mark where I've been with her longer than I've been without her."

It wasn't until the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) approached her in 2017 about teaming up for a campaign that she decided to speak out about her own experience.

"When I was 14, there was no conversation for mental health," says Foxx. "There was no social media, there were no hashtags. There was no brands doing 'self-care Sunday' ... so I felt super-isolated. I didn't want to tell my peers, I didn't want my friends to know, or even people I was dating to know. It wasn't until I started working with NAMI that I felt like I came out and said I had anxiety publicly."

She's been an ambassador for the advocacy group ever since, lobbying Congress to pass mental health reform — "the most fulfilling thing ever" — narrating short films, hosting charity events and lending her name where it'll help. With May marking Mental Health Awareness Month, the Beat Shazam DJ has added fashion designer to her list of titles, collaborating with the brand Shine the Light On on an empowering collection of T-shirts, hoodies, bucket hats and more in support of NAMI.

Over the years Foxx has been able to work through her anxiety through a number of practices, including therapy, meditation and breathwork, the latter of which she calls "the key to helping my panic attacks and generalized anxiety disorder."

"Breath control is a huge one for me," she shares. "And I found that through meditation — which was actually prescribed to me by my therapist — that when you learn to control your breath, there's all these physiological changes that happen that help your anxiety: It slows your heart rate down, it grounds you."

People often have misconceptions about meditation, which she recommends trying for just five or 10 minutes using an app like Calm or Headspace. "You don't have to be a monk; you don't have to be this guru to do it," says Foxx, who also takes part in cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

"It's like talk therapy," she explains. "A lot of it is just challenging your thoughts: not believing everything that you think but being like, Hey, OK, I think that, but is that true? And what evidence do I have for that?

"I've gotten to the point where my therapist is like, 'OK, Corinne, I think you're your own therapist,'" she adds with a laugh. "I have these sessions with her and I'm just [questioning these thoughts] to myself."

Foxx — currently filming Beat Shazam in Ireland ahead of its Season 5 premiere May 23 on Fox — also keeps a running list (titled "Corinne's Guide to Beating Mental Illness Every Day" on her phone to keep track of other things that help her manage her anxiety or pull her out of a low moment. So far the list includes things like exercising, journaling, meditating, meeting up with friends or expressing her creativity through dance or art.

One of Foxx's most recent creative outlets has been her podcast Am I Doing This Right?, which she cohosts with pal Natalie McMillan. Together the friends talk through some of the "uncertainty of adulthood" by offering advice on everything from home-buying to smashing career goals. Imposter syndrome is an issue that Foxx herself has grappled with.

"When I executive-produced Dad Stop Embarrassing Me! on Netflix, I was the youngest and the only female producer in the room," she says. "So talk about imposter syndrome! [I remember] just feeling so small — and not that anyone else was doing anything to me, but I think inherently as a woman, you feel uncomfortable sometimes to speak up and voice your opinions, especially in a big room of men. And it took me a while. It took me a few of our first meetings to really find the courage and find my voice to fight for the things that I wanted to fight for and go toe to toe with a big exec at Netflix."

One thing Foxx doesn't have to worry about is butting heads with her dad on set, or having any work drama spill into her personal life, or vice versa. In addition to working together on Beat Shazam, the dad-daughter duo collaborated on last year's Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!, on which Corinne pulled rank.

"There were times where he had to just respect my decision," Foxx says. "And I think my dad's been in the business long enough to understand the roles. And also, he respects me and he thinks the world of me. And so it's been so easy to work with him, which is why I continue to do so. We really creatively understand each other, so there's very few times that we're ever at each other's [throats] or anything. For the most part it's very smooth and very easy.

"You would think most 28-year-olds would not want to work with their dad, but I love it," she adds with a laugh.

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