Ryan Reynolds opening up about his anxiety has the power to help millions of sufferers

Ryan Reynolds gives off the air of a fun-loving, easygoing guy. But in a new interview, the Deadpool star reveals that he struggles with anxiety — a condition he’s had for years.

“I have anxiety, I’ve always had anxiety,” he tells the New York Times. “Both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of thing, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.” Reynolds says that to this day, he becomes incredibly nauseated and nervous before any talk show appearance, and  when he was on the ABC sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, he used to warm up the audience to help redirect his panic.

Reynolds also revealed that in his 20s, he often woke up in the middle of the night “paralyzed” by anxiety and worrying about his future, which he got through by self-medicating.

Now, he says, he copes with his anxiety in a few ways. While promoting Deadpool 2, he’s been doing a lot of interviews in character to help calm his nerves. He also uses the meditation app Headspace and reminds himself that as soon as he walks onstage, he won’t feel anxious anymore. “When the curtain opens, I turn on this knucklehead, and he kind of takes over and goes away again once I walk off set,” he said. “That’s that great self-defense mechanism. I figure if you’re going to jump off a cliff, you might as well fly.”

Reynolds isn’t the only male star to open up about mental health lately: The Rock recently revealed his struggle with depression in an interview with the Express.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults (18 percent of the population), according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anyone can develop anxiety, but a person’s genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events can put that person at a greater risk, according to the association.

Having an anxiety disorder is different from having “regular” anxiety, which everyone experiences, Simon Rego, PsyD, chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s the same thing, but on a spectrum,” he says. Everyone has to deal with anxiety as an emotion, and it can be helpful when it alerts people to danger and helps them prepare for situations. But anxiety becomes a disorder when the level is so intense that it disrupts or interferes with someone’s daily activities, he says. “You can’t work, you can’t socialize, you can’t function at all.”