According to Knightley, the breakdown happened in 2007 when she 22, after she rose to worldwide stardom in Bend It Like Beckham, Pirates of the Caribbean and Love Actually.
“I did have a mental breakdown at 22, so I did take a year off there and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of all of that stuff,” Knightley told The Hollywood Reporter on their ‘Awards Chatter’ podcast.
When talking about “all of that stuff,” Knightley was referring to the pressure of her early success, the emphasis on her appearance in the press and the relentlessness of the paparazzi.
The actress, now 33, said she was regularly followed by as many as 20 paparazzi a day, revealing she felt “worthless.” “It was big money to get pictures of women falling apart,” she added.
As well as being baited by hordes of paparazzi on a daily basis, Knightley struggled with negativity in the press.
“It was still very confusing because you’re getting all these nominations for all of these things, but press-wise, when I’m going into interviews, people are saying, ‘Everybody thinks you’re shit,’ or focusing on your looks, or focusing on what’s wrong with you. And again, I was 19 – you can only hear the negative stuff,” she said. “I felt pretty much like actually I didn’t exist and I was this weird creature with this weird face that people seemed to respond to in quite an extreme way, and I couldn’t quite figure any of it out.”
After the mental breakdown and PTSD diagnosis, Knightley took a year off, which she called “one of the most important years of my life.”
When she returned to work after “going deep into therapy,” Knightley said she felt good, “I felt better – and suddenly didn’t care [about the views of others].”
Reflecting on that time in her life, Knightley said, “I look back and I just sort of want to give myself a hug and be like, ‘Oh, you’re doing alright, you’ll be alright.’ You know?”
October is Anxiety and Depression Awareness Month. To raise awareness about the condition, seven Australian celebrities have shared their experiences in the new issue of marie claire. On sale now.