SHAPE: Billie Eilish Opened Up About How Hitting Puberty Early Impacted Her Mental Health

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In her first cover interview with Vogue, Billie Eilish was her usual candid self, discussing everything from how she relates to Britney Spears to those controversial texts from Drake. But Eilish also opened up about more serious, personal subjects, including her history with depression and how hitting puberty early played a part.

The singer said that while several factors contributed to her depression, her body changing at a young age was the main cause. “I just hated my body. I would have done anything to be in a different one,” she told Vogue. “I really wanted to be a model, really bad, and I was chubby and short. I developed really early. I had boobs at nine. I got my period at 11. So my body was going faster than my brain.”

Eilish’s experience with early puberty isn’t an exception. In fact, research suggests a link between hitting puberty early (on average, girls start puberty at 11 years old and begin physically maturing around 14–16) and mental health issues. “When girls begin to physically develop earlier or before their peers, they may feel self-conscious about their changing bodies,” says Jennifer Dragonette, Psy.D., executive director of Newport Academy. “This can lead to body dysmorphia, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health issues. In addition, there is research that suggests that earlier onset of breast development specifically is associated with a higher risk of depression.”

Unfortunately, those effects can linger even after their peers have caught up to them physically, adds Dragonette. “While teens may be more emotional or exhibit mental health symptoms during puberty, it does not necessarily mean those feelings will disappear organically once they’ve matured,” she explains. “Many social and emotional stressors that arise during puberty also do not disappear overnight and can still be a risk factor for mental health issues well past puberty.”

In Eilish’s case, her body dysmorphia “peaked” at age 12, a time when she was part of a competitive dance company and regularly wore tight clothes that made her feel uncomfortable, she told Rolling Stone over the summer.

Then, about a year later, a hip injury halted Eilish’s budding dance career, Eilish told Rolling Stone. “I think that’s when the depression started,” she said.

Fortunately, Eilish has since found ways to care for her mental health, including therapy, prioritizing time with friends, and even horseback riding, she told Rolling Stone. Still, the singer has said that she knows how difficult it can be to take that first step toward managing your mental health. So, these days, she shares her own mental health struggles to help others feel less alone and remind people everywhere that it’s always okay to ask for help.

“It doesn’t make you weak to ask for help,” Eilish said in a video for Seize the Awkward, a campaign that aims to empower young people with the skills to talk to friends about their mental health. “It doesn’t make you weak to ask for a friend to go to a therapist. You should be able to ask anyone for help. And everyone has to help someone if they need it.”

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