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Jim Carrey’s Battle with Depression and How He Overcame It

Perhaps you grew up watching comedy movies and enjoy the comedic talents of the actor Jim Carrey. He is in many extremely funny movies including: Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty, etc. Jim Carrey’s acting pedigree is considered top-notch, and he is one of the top 25 actors of all time in terms of box office earnings – his films average just under $100 million in sales.

It’s pretty safe to say that Jim Carrey is considered elite when it comes to acting, especially in the genre of comedy. Although you may not know it, Jim Carrey has dealt with major depression for a significant portion of his life. In fact, at one point, his depression became so debilitating, that he didn’t know how he would overcome it. Like many people, he sought out help from a doctor and was prescribed Prozac.

You are probably wondering, how on Earth could such an impressive actor end up depressed? On the surface he seems to be funny, happy, and be making lots of money. So shouldn’t it be a natural consequence that he feels extremely happy on the inside too? Although some people believe that celebrities are superhuman in that they don’t feel sad, it is important to realize that even actors like Jim Carrey can fall victim to serious depression.

Jim Carrey’s Battle with Depression

Depression is a condition that can affect anyone – regardless of socioeconomic status, intelligence, or talent; it does not discriminate. Early in Jim’s career, nobody would have ever guessed that he had been severely depressed for many years of his life. It wasn’t until 2009 that the extremely successful Carrey decided he had nothing to lose by talking publicly about his battle with depression.

In the eye of the public, Jim Carrey may seem like the ultimate quick-witted comedian. His ability to come up with jokes under pressure is impressive. However, many people are unaware that he has had bouts of depression in his past, and not just occasional “sad days.” Jim Carrey at one time was so depressed that he went in for treatment and was given Prozac. Although he is no longer on an antidepressant medication, it doesn’t mean that his depression wasn’t severe.

What may have caused his depression?

Since everyone is different, determining the cause of Jim Carrey’s depression is highly difficult. It was likely due to a range of complex factors such as: environment, relationships, predisposition, lifestyle, and life perspective. Due to his difficulties in childhood, some have inferred that these increased his vulnerability to experiencing major depression.

  • ADHD: In addition to having depression, Jim Carrey was also diagnosed with ADHD. This is a diagnosis that sometimes goes hand-in-hand with depression. People with ADHD may exhibit certain slow brain waves that make them more prone to mood swings as well as depressed mood.
  • Comedian: The fact that Carrey is a comedian may be associated with depression and/or some sort of trauma. Many comedians have admitted to going through significant trauma and that comedy was the only escape. In the case of Carrey, it seems as though the comedian aspect helped him cope with his difficulties.  This is more of a correlational factor rather than causation.
  • Family problems: When Carrey was 15, he dropped out of high school so that he could work to help support his family. This meant he was not getting an education like most other kids, but he wasn’t getting as much interaction with other kids his age. He ended up growing up faster than usual, having to get a job as a janitor. When he got the job, he was quoted as saying, “I’d have a baseball bat on my janitor cart because I was so angry I just wanted to beat the heck out of something.”
  • Financial troubles: At one point, his dad lost his job and Carrey’s family went from “low middle class” to “poor” in regards to socioeconomic status. They were noted as living out of a van. For many people, having a lack of finances contributes to significant depression.
  • Lack of spirituality: For many people, not having any sort of spirituality in their life can lead to depression. Lack of faith in some sort of spirituality can lead to an existential crisis and also make a person believe that all of their actions are void of purpose. It was mentioned that Carrey overcame his depression with the help of a spiritual experience.

Note: Keep in mind that the above factors are merely speculations of what may have caused depression based off of public knowledge of Jim Carrey’s life.

Jim Carrey’s Depressive Symptoms: What he experienced…

Jim Carrey experienced several major symptoms of depression including, difficulties with anger, feelings of despair, and mood swings. Some speculate that many of these symptoms may be a result of negative experiences during his upbringing – particularly during his childhood years.

  • Anger: The anger that Jim felt stemmed from the fact that his family barely had enough money to stay afloat. He was extremely mad that he had to get a job as a janitor to help support himself and the family. The fact that he dropped out of school at age 15 to pursue a job is something many people would be angry about.
  • Despair: When your family doesn’t have much money, you drop out of school, and nothing seems to be going your way, there’s a good chance you’ll feel some sort of despair. This is what Jim Carrey likely experienced during his depression.
  • Mood swings: It has been suggested that Jim may have dealt with mood swings that are common in depression. These aren’t the bipolar mood swings, rather just feelings of irritability, anger, and other various negative emotions.
  • Relationships: Some speculate that his relationships with significant others have been somewhat rocky over the years. Dealing with tough break-ups can make even the most upbeat people feel depressed for awhile.
  • Stress: Everyday stressors such as not having enough money, not having an actual home (he lived out of his van), dropping out of school, etc. – likely all contributed to his depression. When you are under significant amounts of stress, especially during teen years, some depression is likely.

How Jim Carrey overcame his depression

For Jim Carrey, overcoming depression wasn’t easy and took some time for him to change as a person. Not everyone will have the same luck of overcoming their depression like Carrey, in part because everyone is different. His specific depression was overcome through spirituality, perceptual changes of life, maintaining a sense of purpose, and avoiding drugs and alcohol. Although he tried an antidepressant medication (Prozac), he found that it didn’t help, and was actually making him feel worse.

  • Acceptance: In an interview, he talked about life having “peaks” and “valleys” but ultimately being beautiful. He has accepted that his life will have challenges and times where he feels low, and needs questions answered, but that’s alright. The fact that he accepts life for what it is and realizes the beauty in the good and the bad has helped him cope.
  • Acting: Some speculate that his acting career taking off may have helped his depression. It sure doesn’t hurt to be praised as a great actor and become more confident in your skills with each new film. Acting can also be a great way to escape your own emotions and play the role of another “character” which can be a beneficial distraction.
  • Avoiding alcohol / drugs: Jim Carrey has noted that he makes an effort to keep his body free of alcohol and other drugs. He has gone as to far as to say that he doesn’t even drink coffee because he doesn’t need any substance to feel good about life.
  • Channeling: Sometimes when you’re really depressed, the best way to cope with it is by using it for fuel. Although he had a tough time coping with how he felt, he also had a knack for comedy. He has admitted to channeling his depressive emotions to improve his comedy.
  • Perceptual changes: For Jim a major turning point occurred when he had a spiritual experience. This changed his entire perception and in large part, how he thought about life. When he was depressed, he felt despair. However once he was able to shift his perception, he realized that his life was beautiful so there was no reason to be depressed.
  • Purpose: Even when Carrey was severely depressed, he always enjoyed making people laugh. He knew his purpose was to enter comedy and share his talents as an actor. By focusing his energy on his purpose (e.g. comedic acting), he was able to overlook some feelings of depression.
  • Spiritual experience: A major antidepressant for Jim Carrey has come not in the form of a pill, rather in the form of a spiritual connection. Jim had mentioned that when he embraced his spiritual nature and found a “loving place,” he became happier. He has specifically referenced a time when he was up in the Arizona mountains with Lakota Indians, saying that he truly connected with his spiritual side. He does not subscribe to a particular belief system, but believes that invisible forces are at work in the world. Finding his spiritual connection has made him happier.
  • Staying busy: Not only is this guy a talented actor, but he maintains a high work ethic. He is constantly starring in new movies and working on others. When he’s not acting, he’s keeping up with his family. Although staying busy can be stressful, for some people it helps take them focus on things other than their own depression.

Jim Carrey publicly shared his experience with depression

In the past, most notable actors would have never shared their experience with depression. Many people who don’t adequately understand depression view the illness as just the occasional feelings of sadness. In reality, depression is significantly more extreme than the occasional lows associated with life – it is a debilitating “low” that a person cannot shake.

Jim Carrey is an actor that deserves some praise (not only for his brilliant comedic acting), but for being open about his experience with depression. It takes a significant amount of courage to share personal battles with the general public – especially those related to mental health. When Carrey shared his experience, it showed people that although a person may appear extremely happy, funny, and upbeat – it doesn’t mean they can’t feel depressed on the inside.

Jim Carrey has shown people that just because a person is successful and appears happy, doesn’t necessarily indicate that they haven’t had hardships or dealt with severe depression. The fact that he was able to share his experience has helped change public perception of the illness by reducing stigma and validating depression as a “real” condition. Prior to his success, speaking out about depression may have resulted in people thinking he’s crazy and that he shouldn’t be considered for certain jobs, but now people realize that it’s a common illness.

Final thoughts: Applaud Jim Carrey for sharing his experience

The fact that Jim Carrey shared his battle with depression and triumph with the general public should be applauded. Not only have people (including myself) gained a newfound respect for Jim Carrey, but his story has helped reduce some societal stigma associated with being depressed.

Not only does Carrey’s openness make him more relatable to the general public, but the fact that he was able to overcome his deep depression (and unfavorable life circumstances) to embody the pinnacle of acting success, serves as an inspiration.  It can only be hoped that other celebrities (and everyday people) with mental disorders make similar efforts to be open with others to further reduce the stigma associated with depression.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Claudia August 14, 2015, 5:16 pm

    Just sharing this article… not so much for you but to let you know that I am trying my best to fight this debilitating illness. Also to let you know that I welcome any help from you in terms of helping me to be myself once more and to avoid the lonely and cumbersome feeling that not having you and a family is my only purpose in life. It also helps to know that people of the stature of Jim Carrey, Owen Wilson, etc. deal with this phenomenon. One thing that I seem to be overcoming is the feeling that I am weak and a loser for not being able to shake this dark cloud.

    The macho part of me wanted to simply ‘rub some dirt’ and simply move forward with my life. Millions of men are left alone; yet capable of making a new life; so why couldn’t I be one of these stronger individuals? This disconnect with thinking that I am weak and incapable should be a good start on my path to recovery. Like Carrey, I don’t want to hide behind my comedian facade but use it with full awareness that I also like to make people laugh… I guess if I can’t be happy why not make others happy? -Ricardo

    • Robi July 13, 2016, 5:58 pm

      Hey Ricardo, I saw what you wrote and I can really relate to what you are saying. I can even relate to your rationale of being able to make people laugh without me, myself being happy. I have found that method can work pretty well. But the inner unhappiness catches up in unexpected ways. I am grappling with that right now; realizing that comedy is my staple (like peanut butter to my personality). But I am lacking in the other emotional nutrients such as healthy self-talk, good therapy, good diet, good exercise, healthy amounts of sleep, and good ways of confronting and managing my bi-polar in ways that work for me.

      Meds, all of them, made it worse while creating new problems for me to deal with. They made me more unstable. When lacking all the complete nutrients, the mind is bound to fall apart. Just like someone physically does when they lack certain food and supplemental nutrients for so long. The frustrating part (besides what I mentioned above) is that what those necessary nutrients are is different and complicated for everyone.

      It is such a long and seemingly unconquerable journey. However, I have to believe that if I keep trying, I will figure out what works. As long as I never stop trying and recognizing when something is doing more harm than good. We will never completely be rid of bi-polar. It will always be there; waiting for it to rear it’s ugly head with another relapse.

      It’s like fighting against ourselves to stay alive, healthy, well… We cannot beat it out of our lives; but we can strip it of it’s nastiest effects. But it will take everything we are; being stronger than our negative selves. I just don’t see any other way that is acceptable. What are your thoughts?

  • naoma October 3, 2015, 6:10 am

    I did not know any of this about Jim Carrey but am happy to hear he is doing much better.

  • Joe March 25, 2016, 2:22 am

    Yes it is so difficult to live with this black funk every day. Just horrible. Thanks for the good article.

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