Howie Mandel
Jade Small
Jade Small
January 29, 2024 ·  3 min read

Howie Mandel on Being Honest About His Mental Health Struggles

If you have watched America’s Got Talent, you’ll be very familiar with Howie Mandel as one of the judges on the panel. However, what people didn’t know, was that Howie has been struggling with his mental health for most of his life. He appeared on the Kelly Clarkson show last year and opened up about what goes on inside his head, and behind closed doors.

Howie Mandel
Image credit: YouTube

“I’m living in a nightmare,”

The America’s Got Talent judge, Howie Mandel, is 65 years old, and he barely spoke about his mental health struggles until he appeared on the Kelly Clarkson show last year. He confessed he has lived with the crippling effects of OCD and anxiety for most of his life. It all started when he was a toddler, so you could say he doesn’t remember a life without those ailments. “I’m living in a nightmare,” he said, referring to his germ phobia.

Howie has been married to his wife, Terry, since 1980. With her, he shares three children, Jackie, 36, Alex, 31, and Riley, 28. He loves his family dearly but says he struggles with extreme highs and lows. “I try to anchor myself,” said Howie. “I have a beautiful family and I love what I do. But at the same time, I can fall into a dark depression I can’t get out of.”

Howie Mandel on the Kelly Clarkson Show
Image credit: YouTube

When COVID-19 hit, Howie went into a spiral. “There isn’t a waking moment of my life when ‘we could die’ doesn’t come into my psyche,” he says. “But the solace I would get would be the fact that everybody around me was okay. It’s good to latch onto okay. But [during the pandemic] the whole world was not okay. And it was absolute hell.”

Read: Tom Selleck Admits to “Messed Up” Health Issues After Over 50 Years of Doing His Own Film Stunts

Howie Mandel, coping as a comedian

Howie never spoke about his condition, until the year 2006. He was only diagnosed with OCD and anxiety when he was 40 years old. He admitted it made him feel like a failure that no one would hire. “My first thought was that I’ve embarrassed my family,” he said. “Then I thought, ‘Nobody is going to hire somebody who isn’t stable.’

So, Howie found some comfort in his work as a comedian. Making light of situations quickly became his coping mechanism. “My coping skill is finding the funny,” he said. “If I’m not laughing, then I’m crying. And I still haven’t been that open about how dark and ugly it really gets.” He added, “I feel very much at ease on stage. And when I have nothing to do, I retreat, which is not healthy.”

People see inconsistencies

According to Howie Mandel, the public have noticed him hugging people, or shaking their hand. They say it is “inconsistent” with his mental health issues. However, Howie disagrees. He said, “People see inconsistencies, especially in the media,” he says. “‘Oh he hugged someone’ or ‘he shook someone’s hand.'”

Howie Mandel opening up about his mental health struggles.
Image credit: YouTube

However, Howie says that contrary to popular belief, he can shake people’s hands, or give them a hug. But, he ends up washing himself for hours, never feeling satisfied. “I can shake your hand,” he said. “But then I’d think I didn’t wash it well enough. And I’d go back and forth in a loop washing my hands for hours. I understand the funny in that. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly painful. And I don’t want to defend my mental health. I just want to maintain it.”

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  1. Howie Mandel Opens Up About His ‘Painful’ Struggle with Anxiety and OCD.People. Aili Nahas. June 9, 2021.
  2. Stars Who’ve Battled Mental Health Issues.US Magazine. November 8, 2022