Dan Levy Opens Up About the "Deep-Rooted Fear" That Led to His Lifelong Struggle With Anxiety

Dan Levy detailed his experience with anxiety and how it shaped his time as writer, director, producer and actor on Schitt's Creek.

By Cydney Contreras Dec 18, 2020 3:53 PMTags
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Dan Levy seems like he has everything going for him.

The actor's show, Schitt's Creek, swept the 2019 Emmys this year, he was a fan-favorite in Hulu's Happiest Season and he was named one of People magazine's Sexiest Men Alive. On the surface, Dan has every reason to believe he could do anything he sets his mind to.

And yet, the 37-year-old tells Bustle he's always struggled with anxiety, to the point where he regularly avoids socializing. Dan says, "Over the past six years... I really haven't been outside that much." 

He adds that his habit of isolating himself started when he was younger. According to Buckle, Dan's anxiety was so debilitating, he refused to attend birthday parties or go to summer camp for fear of having to socialize. 

His anxiety even caused Dan to develop iritis, a condition that is characterized as inflammation of the eye.

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To this day, the Canadian doesn't entirely understand the cause of his anxiety, but speculates, "I think that came from a deep-rooted fear of knowing that I was gay and not being able to be free."

He continues, "By the time I got to high school, when your brain is starting to catch up to your physical impulses, it led to a very confusing time. Because on the one hand, you are now being introduced to things like self-awareness and anxiety. At the same time, you're becoming more and more savvy when it comes to hiding it."

And though his parents, Deborah Divine and Eugene Levy, were accepting of his sexuality and encouraged him to be himself, Dan says he still worried about what would happen if he came out. "Fear of being ridiculed. Fear of being othered," he explains. "Fear of exposing something that I think a lot of high school students at the time didn't have the tools to process properly, to make it comfortable for me."

He only felt comfortable enough to openly discuss his sexuality with others after his mother "invited" him to come out over lunch when he was 18. 

In retrospect, Eugene says, "I would have done things so much differently, you know?" The American Pie actor adds that he would've tried to be more "involved" in Dan's life, but acknowledges Dan needed to figure things out for himself, saying, "Not necessarily that we would have gotten any direct answers."

Eugene adds, "You can only get back what you get back."

Years later, Dan found solace in writing Schitt's Creek with his dad, although his desire for perfection pushed his health to the limits. Bustle writes that his anxiety was so intense, his neck seized up on several occasions. To alleviate the problem, he'd wear a brace and have chiropractic treatments on set.

Now, the former MTV talent hopes to take a more positive approach to his next project, sharing, "It's just, try and do the best job you can. Try to make sure that you're loving it."

Dan hopes to apply this same mindset to his dating life too.


"I would like to date more," he shares. "Circumstance plays such a huge part in what we accept for ourselves. When you're doing something that you love it's like, ‘I have a full plate.' Even though [Schitt's Creek was] super intense and even though at times I need a neck brace, it was never not inspiring, and it was never not thrilling and exciting and totally satisfying. So to [want to] make space for someone else…in a way, it is the ultimate filter. You're basically saying, do I want to carve out the space in an already full and fulfilled life for this person? And a lot of the time, the answer is no. But it only makes it that much better when the right person comes along."