Elizabeth Olsen suffered ‘hourly’ panic attacks while living in NYC at 21


Elizabeth Olsen has said she suffered panic attacks “on the hour every hour” during early adulthood.

In an interview with Variety, the 33-year-old actress revealed how she “didn’t understand what anxiety or a panic attack was” until she was 21 — and how she thought she was going to “drop dead” when she experienced them.

“I remember I would get them on the hour every hour. I used to live on 13th Street between 6th and 7th. I was crossing 6th Avenue at 14th Street, and I realized I couldn’t cross the street — I stood up against the wall, and I just thought I was going to drop dead at any moment,” Olsen shared about her time living in New York City.

The Marvel actress shared she felt like she was “spiraling” — and even experienced symptoms of vertigo.

“If I went from cold to hot, hot to cold, full to hungry, hungry to full — any kind of shift in my body, my whole body thought, ‘Uh oh, something’s wrong!’ And I just started spiraling,” Olsen said. 

Elizabeth Olsen
Elizabeth Olsen experienced symptoms of vertigo during her panic attacks.
Alessio Botticelli/GC Images

“It was so weird. A ENT doctor said that it could be vertigo related because it was all about truly spinning. So it was an interesting six months.”

The “WandaVision” actress learned a lot of brain games in order to get past the panic attacks, including a method called “repetition” where she tried to connect with her surroundings.

“When I would walk down the street, I would just start naming everything I saw out loud to get myself out of the spiraling thoughts in my brain. That was a helpful tool. But it just became a practice that got me out of it,” she said. “I didn’t want to be on medication, but I had medication in case I felt like I was having an emergency and just having that in my bag felt good.”

Elizabeth Olsen
Elizabeth Olsen learned a lot of brain games in order to get past the panic attacks.
© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

Olsen admitted the panic attacks felt foreign to her since she wasn’t anxious when she was young.

“It’s very weird because I was not an anxious child. I was very loud and confident,” she said.