Howie Mandel reveals he’s ‘incredibly medicated,’ and admits health issues that drive hime into ‘absolute hell’.

Known for his frequent exclamation, “Don’t touch me!” Howie Mandel stunned everyone in September 2023 when he tightly embraced Reba McEntire on the stage of The Voice.

The comedian, who struggles with a debilitating fear of germs, gave in to his excitement and couldn’t resist the magnetic pull of the country music star.

While Mandel appears energetic and happy in the spotlight, off-screen he admits he’s a “scared” man who often prefers to live “in the fetal position.”

In a recent confession, he revealed how he manages the OCD that drives him to “absolute hell.”

Keep reading to learn more!

The global pandemic unleashed the inner germaphobe in many, sensitizing people to the dangers of contamination.

For some, this fear lasted only a couple of years, but for others, it is a never-ending and debilitating struggle.

“There isn’t a waking moment of my life when ‘we could die’ doesn’t come into my psyche,” says Howie Mandel, who has battled severe anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) since childhood. Speaking with People, the 68-year-old TV personality explains that the pandemic was especially triggering: “But the solace I would get was knowing 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.”

The Mayo Clinic describes OCD as a “pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears known as obsessions. These obsessions lead you to do repetitive behaviors, also called compulsions. These obsessions and compulsions get in the way of daily activities and cause a lot of distress.”

“I’m living in a nightmare,” says the Canadian-born comic. “I try to anchor myself. I have a beautiful family,” Mandel says of his wife Terry (married in 1980), and their three kids, Alex, Riley, and Jackie. “…I love what I do. But at the same time, I can fall into a dark depression I can’t get out of.”

Laughter is the best medicine

 

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Mandel, who had his big break in 1982 on the medical drama St. Elsewhere, explains that every day is a struggle, but his humor helps him cope.

“My coping skill is finding the funny. 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.”

Using comedy to resist the dangerous pull of OCD, Mandel adds, “I’m most comfortable on stage. When I don’t have anything to do, I turn inward, and that’s not good.”

Bringing his unparalleled sense of humor to every project, Mandel always keeps busy, whether serving as a judge on America’s Got Talent or hosting several other shows.

‘Incredibly medicated’

 

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In 2022, Howie Mandel had a candid conversation with Kelly Clarkson on her talk show about his mental health issues.

“I’m neurotic, I have OCD…so people think that I’m enjoying myself when I’m out among people, but I’m scared. I like to go home and just live in the fetal position,” he told her.

Surprised by this revelation, Clarkson replied, “It’s so funny to me because every time I’m around you, even outside of work, you’re so the opposite of what I would think.”

“I know, I’m such a joy, a light, an energy, and I’m stunning,” Mandel joked. “…I’ll be honest with you, I’m incredibly medicated.”

Hugging Reba

That medication might have inspired Howie Mandel’s eagerness when he saw Reba McEntire on the stage of The Voice.

Leaping from the audience and calling her name, Mandel ran up to the country music star, a panelist on the show, and said, “We’re right next door shooting the AGT finale. Would you sign my shirt?”

After she signed his “I [heart] Reba” shirt, Mandel shocked viewers by tightly embracing McEntire.

“You don’t see that every day,” remarked the show’s presenter, Carson Daly, about a man who typically shies away from physical contact.

Acknowledging his puzzling behavior, Mandel explains, “People see inconsistencies, especially in the media. ‘Oh, he hugged someone’ or ‘he shook someone’s hand.’ I can shake your hand, 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.”

Committed to keeping the conversation on mental health going, he continues, “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.”

In 2022, Mandel contracted COVID-19—mild because he is “vaxxed” and “boosted”—which serves as a reminder that fearing infection isn’t enough to keep you safe.

What do you think of Howie Mandel and his openness about his mental health? Please let us know and share this story to help get the conversation started!

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