Kerry Washington at Los Angeles Premiere Of Hulu's "UnPrisoned"

Kerry Washington Details 'Panic Attacks' At 7 Triggered By Parents Troubled Marriage

Home / Stars / Kerry Washington Details 'Panic Attacks' At 7 Triggered By Parents Troubled Marriage

By Afouda Bamidele on August 12, 2023 at 7:00 PM EDT

Kerry Washington has reflected on deeply concealed traumas from her childhood.

Details of the traumas were unveiled in her emotionally charged memoir, "Thicker Than Water," where she recounts the intense and acrimonious conflicts her parents frequently engaged in during her formative years. The stress and fear from these encounters resulted in impacting the youngster's mind, ultimately causing her to suffer panic attacks at age seven.

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Kerry Washington Unveils Childhood Panic Attacks Triggered By Her Parents' Tumultuous Relationship

In an excerpt from the upcoming memoir published by Oprah Daily, Washington disclosed that she "developed panic attacks at night" at such a young age due to overhearing her parents' arguments after she had fallen asleep. Recalling what often led to these contentious moments, the "Scandal" actress stated per the time:

"From what I remember, most of my parents' fights were about money, and about the fact that neither of them felt like they were in the marriage they wanted to be in, or more precisely, that they were married to the person they wanted to be married to."

The celebrated actress explained that her parents were burdened with disillusionment about the turnout of their lives, with their inner turmoil leading them to engage in heated arguments mixed with longtime anger.

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Despite their best attempts to project a composed facade around their children and other families, their continuous fights soon caused Washington to suffer panic attacks. As she penned:

"They manifested first as a rhythm of anxiety that encircled my brain, then evolved into a rapid pulsing, a whirling frenzy of metallic thumps, like those nauseating old spinning rides at a county fair."

The "Little Fires Everywhere" star likened the ordeal to hearing "the sound of terror," a jarring sensation detached from the natural rhythm of her heart, before adding:

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"I was dizzied with terror, no ground beneath me; it was crazy-­making, endless. And sad," she recalled. "There was something so sad about the rhythm. And I couldn't make it stop. I couldn't sleep. It was as though the alarms within me had been triggered and there was no turning them off."

Washington noted that even though she did not have a panic attack "every single night," she "trembled at the possibility of it" even when her parents were not fighting. She explained that she "tried everything to avoid" the "sounds leaking" from her body, including reciting poetry and singing. 

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Despite doing "anything I could think of to simply turn my brain off," the panic attacks "would take hold in my fascia, then work outward through my muscles and tendons." However, the only thing that helped was the exhaustion that overrode "the rhythm, lulling me to the dream state beyond my fears."

Kerry Washington at the 5th American Black Film Festival Honors
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"I would fight the haunting rhythm as it rose in me, often having to compete with my parents' fights in the next room. If my inner rhythm won, I was tortured by the tempo of my own obsessive brain; if my parents' arguing won, I was trapped by fear," the "Save the Last Dance" star expressed further.

Washington's "Thicker Than Water" is set to be released on September 26.

The 'I Think I Love My Wife' Superstar Announced The Imminence Of The Book In February

In February, The Blast reported that the Emmy Award-winning performer had announced the impending arrival of her memoir, referring to it as a "deeply personal project" earlier this year. She had claimed at the time:

"Writing a memoir is, by far, the most deeply personal project I have ever taken on. I hope that readers will receive it with open hearts and I pray that it offers new insights and perspectives, and invites people into deeper compassion — for themselves and others."

The "Django Unchained" actress also declared in a statement that the publication will offer readers an intimate glimpse into her life "an artist, an advocate, an entrepreneur, a mother, a daughter, a wife, a Black woman."

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Washington further revealed that she will delve into her life's journey, shedding light on her triumphs over numerous challenges, traumas, and setbacks while building her career.

She indicated that the tome will chronicle her path to stardom and political advocacy, illustrating how she overcame obstacles to uncover her authentic self and a profound sense of belonging.

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