Known for her eye-catching fashion and high-energy performances, Lady Gaga often seems larger than life, but behind the scenes, the 32-year-old pop star has struggled with crippling health issues like PTSD and fibromyalgia.
In an interview with Vogue, the October cover star talked openly about her mental health struggles stemming from a traumatic event at age 19, when she was raped by a music producer. “No one else knew,” Gaga told Vogue. “It was almost like I tried to erase it from my brain. And when it finally came out, it was like a big, ugly monster. And you have to face the monster to heal.”
In the years following, Gaga regularly experienced symptoms of PTSD and finally opened up about her struggles in a 2016 interview with Today. “For me, with my mental-health issues, half of the battle in the beginning was, I felt like I was lying to the world because I was feeling so much pain but nobody knew,” she said. “So that’s why I came out and said that I have PTSD, because I don’t want to hide—any more than I already have to.”
PTSD often leaves her feeling “stunned” or “stunted,” Gaga explained. “You know that feeling when you’re on a roller coaster and you’re just about to go down the really steep slope? That fear and the drop in your stomach? My diaphragm seizes up. Then I have a hard time breathing, and my whole body goes into a spasm. And I begin to cry.”
In a personal letter for the Born This Way Foundation in 2016, Gaga shared that she also experiences dissociation as a result of her trauma. “My mind doesn’t want to relive the pain so I look off and I stare in a glazed-over state,” she wrote. “My body is in one place and my mind is in another.”
Gaga also suffers from fibromyalgia, which causes her extreme nerve pain. She told Vogue the condition is likely another result of her trauma as well as the physical demands of touring. While doctors aren’t certain what causes fibromyalgia, trauma is thought to be a common cause. Some people are predisposed to the condition due to genetics, and some illnesses can make fibromyalgia worse, according to Mayo Clinic.
“I get so irritated with people who don’t believe fibromyalgia is real,” Gaga said. “For me, and I think for many others, it’s really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which sends the nervous system into overdrive, and then you have nerve pain as a result. People need to be more compassionate. Chronic pain is no joke. And it’s every day waking up not knowing how you’re going to feel.”
These days, things are looking bright for Gaga, who will soon make her film debut in the musical drama A Star Is Born with Bradley Cooper. “It’s getting better every day,” she said. “I have fantastic doctors who take care of me and are getting me show-ready.”