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Ireland Baldwin opens up about eating disorder, substance use: ‘I would’ve been dead’

Speaking about reaching a "breaking point," Baldwin said she went "way too far with drinking."

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com for additional resources.

Anxiety and mental health struggles have soared since the pandemic began, especially in young people.

Twenty-six-year-old model Ireland Baldwin recently opened up about her struggle with anxiety, which affects at least 11.3% of Americans over the age of 18. In her recent appearance on Facebook Watch's “Red Table Talk,” Baldwin underlined how addressing mental health doesn’t always need to involve prescriptions and therapy. Sometimes it’s just about having conversations with friends and “letting it all out.”

Baldwin told "Red Table Talk" co-host Willow Smith that she started experiencing symptoms of anxiety when she was a toddler, around the time that her parents, actors Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, were going through a public divorce and custody battle.

"Everything that happens to you, everyone can read about it," Baldwin said, adding that her desire to feel like her own person, separate from her parents' success, has been one of the main sources of her anxiety.

"Being like, OK, well, I guess I'm going to model for now, or I guess I'm going to act, or I guess I'm going to do this because this is what people expect of me — you have a lot more to prove because you're always going to have that comparison to your parents," she aid.

Later in the conversation, Baldwin recalled a dark time in her mental health journey prompted by an abusive relationship.

“I just hit a total breaking point. I was self-medicating with Xanax, and I was drinking,” she explained, adding that alcohol and drug addiction runs in her family. “I had a night where I went way too far with drinking and taking pills because I couldn’t even go to bed at night. I was so afraid of this relationship."

After going to rehab, she said she learned that she wasn't addicted to substances but rather "wanting to fix people. That's my addiction. I'd fixate on anything until it shatters everything around me."

Baldwin recalled that she isolated herself off from family and friends "tortured" herself with eating disorders. She didn't speak to her parents for about a year.

“I had no control in anything in my life,” she said. “I was so ashamed of what I had become and how I was living. … I just became this different person. I was emaciated in every way, lifeless, and I don’t mean in like a literal, skinny way, but just my soul. Everything was just shrunk.”

Baldwin's mental health and substance use became so concerning that her cousin, actor Alaia Baldwin, felt compelled to intervene.

“(Alaia) was the one who booked the ticket from New York and came to L.A. to see me. She was like, ‘Something’s up. … I sense something,’” Baldwin said. “She saved my life. I think I would have committed suicide, or I would have been dead for sure. I was so close. I could feel it getting to that point. And she saved my life. She pulled me out of it.”

With that challenging period of her life behind her, the model told Willow that her advice to people who have loved ones struggling with anxiety is to reach out and take their concerns seriously.

“(Don't make) someone feel ashamed or embarrassed,” Baldwin urged. “One other thing I’ll say is reach out to people, check on people, ask if they’re OK, because anxiety manifests itself in a lot of ways and swirls and turns into depression.”