Shailene Woodley Opens Up About The Serious Health Issue That Has Impacted Her Career

"The Fault in Our Stars" actress Shailene Woodley is known for her jaw-dropping acting skills, being everyone's favorite nature-lover, and for her commendable activism regarding crucial causes like protecting the Dakota Pipeline, and empowering students through her nonprofit All it Takes (via Teen Vogue). In short, this two-time Golden Globe nominee is as fierce as they come, flying sky-high ever since her breakthrough performances in "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" and "The Descendants" (via Golden Globes). And with such a spectacular start, she showed she wasn't keen on slowing down — she followed up her initial rise to fame with star-powered movies like "The Spectacular Now" with Miles Teller, the "Divergent" film series, "Snowden," and the extra-impressive "Castaway"-style movie "Adrift." With a starring role in HBO's "Big Little Lies" alongside fellow megawatt actresses like Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, it was made clear long ago that Woodley is an A-list actress with a career that's only getting started. But a new interview shows her rise to fame was actually much more difficult than anyone could have thought.

Woodley's recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter is shedding light on some very-serious health struggles she's endured, but the 29-year-old actress has previously spoken about her mental health issues. In May 2020, Woodley told Harper's Bazaar, "I never realized that I had anxiety until my physical body started breaking down." While many fans already knew about Woodley's struggles, they are just now finding out more about the actress's physical ailments.

Shailene Woodley has struggled with mental health

In her interview with Harper's Bazaar, Shailene Woodley answered questions with her mother, Lori Woodley, about mental health. Shailene opened up about dealing with anxiety, explaining, "I had extreme social anxiety — I never felt safe, I never felt like I could trust people, I never felt like it was okay to not be in control, that there were other people who could take care of me." She shared, "I had a lot of childhood traumas that I never worked through," which led her to see psychologists in order to "work through that trauma in a safe way." And it seems like the actress connects her mental health struggles to her physical body, stating, "I had all of these very, very scary health complications arise." She described, "Through the process of having to slow down to heal, I recognized that the root of so much of what I was physically experiencing stemmed from extreme anxiety."

The actress even struggled to sleep at night because her mind was "continuously overwhelmed," but since changing her habits, she noticed her "physical ailments went away." Speaking about how important it is to "address those traumatic experiences" that "[stem] from childhood," she explained how her trauma was "holding [her] back" and even causing panic attacks. But after therapy, time alone without her phone, and saying "no" more, the actress truly improved her wellbeing. That being said, her latest interview with The Hollywood Reporter is showing the physical element to her struggles, too.

The actress spoke about her "debilitating" physical illness

Shailene Woodley sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about her new Netflix adaptation, "The Last Letter From Your Lover," her relationship with fiancé and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and her attitude towards acting now. With trademark transparency and frankness, the California-born actress shared insight into her physical health struggles that dominated her life for years. Although she has not shared the name of her illness publicly, she describes it as "debilitating" and the reason why she had to say "no to a lot of projects." About losing out on roles due to her illness, she stated, "I physically couldn't participate in them. And I definitely suffered a lot more than I had to because I didn't take care of myself."

Saying she created "self-inflicted pressure of not wanting to be helped," Woodley partly took on her struggles alone, which she said was completely "physically dominating." Remembering feeling "incredibly isolated and alone" during her time battling her illness, she said it "spun [her] out for a while," especially with "so many people" watching her every move as a celebrity. Talking about the difficulty of imperceptible sicknesses, she explained, "Unless someone can see that you have a broken arm or a broken leg, it's really difficult for people to relate to the pain that you're experiencing when it's a silent, quiet and invisible pain." 

Shailene Woodley proved she's as fierce as they come

After years of "physical unrest," Shailene Woodley can finally say she is on "the tail end of [her illness], which is very exciting," via The Hollywood Reporter. In fact, the actress attributed learning "the incredibly difficult life task of not caring what people think" as the main reason behind her healing process. She explained, "The more I paid attention to the noise that was surrounding me, the longer it was taking my body and my mind to heal because I wasn't focused on myself." Forgetting about the image of herself "via the lens of everyone around" her, Woodley finally focused on getting better — and is now in a place of honesty, and being "open" at all costs, while also saying she "[loves] love so much" in light of her adorable engagement with Aaron Rodgers.

Although Woodley told The New York Times in 2020 that she was "very, very sick" in her early 20s, she since feels "very grounded," "rooted," and "clear." Still, she remembered "struggling" while doing "the 'Divergent' movies" and having to say "no to a lot of opportunities" which ended up going to her peers. Even once questioning if she was "going to survive" what she felt at the time, and if she would "ever be healthy," she eventually chose to "surrender and let go" of her career until she got better. "On the other side of it" now, the lauded actress has proven just how powerful she really is.