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break the internet

Amanda Bynes' new interview reveals how playing "armchair psychiatrist" can be a dangerous game

The public owes Amanda Bynes an apology

IN CASE YOU missed it, Amanda Bynes is back.

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The former actor is attempting to ‘break the internet’ with her new Paper Magazine cover and interview. 

In the interview, she talks about her time at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in California, where she is completing her Associate’s of Art degree in Merchandise Product Development this month.

She’s going for her Bachelor’s in January (Go Amanda!) before plotting a return to acting – the creative sphere she left following a publicly perceived mental breakdown.

What people didn’t know was that Bynes was actually struggling with a substance abuse problem. 

Around the time she was filming Hairspray, she remembers “reading an article in a magazine that [called Adderall] ‘the new skinny pill’”. She shortly got a prescription from a psychiatrist after faking the symptoms of ADD.

On the set of the movie Hall Pass, which Bynes ended up walking out on, she remembers “chewing on a bunch of them [Adderall tablets] and literally being scatterbrained and not being able to focus on my lines or memorise them for that matter.”

Her appearance became a massive issue for her. After she wrapped filming She’s The Man, Bynes described the “deep depression” she fell into because she didn’t like her appearance as a man. Her performance in Easy A made her want to quit acting. She doesn’t know whether it was a drug-induced psychosis or what, but admits that the drugs she took “absolutely changed my perception of things.”

After that, she found herself “at home, getting high, watching TV and tweeting.” Unfortunately, that’s now what she’s most remembered for by people of a certain age, who grew up on the internet when Bynes tweeted a number of alarming messages about fellow celebrities and family members. It’s those messages that prompted the most speculation from a litany of armchair psychologists, pontificating about what went wrong for this particular fallen star.

“It definitely isn’t fun when people diagnose you with what they think you are,” Bynes told Paper Magazine, in reference to countless headlines over the years that attempted to put a psychological label to her behavior. “That was always really bothersome to me.

If you deny anything and tell them what it actually is, they don’t believe you. Truly, for me, [my behavior] was drug-induced, and whenever I got off of [drugs], I was always back to normal.”

“I know that my behavior was so strange that people were just trying to grasp at straws for what was wrong.”

While the internet was admittedly, a different beast five years ago, it’s still clear that old habits die hard when it comes to explaining away addiction. For many, mental health issues and addiction can certainly be interlinked. And while no one was publicly aware of Bynes’ drug struggles behind the scenes, what makes any of us, as glorified public spectators, qualified to diagnose anyone with anything?

It bears repeating that celebrities don’t owe us any thing, especially when it comes to matters of their personal lives. Paparazzi culture has moved beyond the point it was at in the noughties, albeit at a glacial pace. The level of misogyny and invasiveness is no longer tolerated. Generally, the public are more sympathetic. But to look at where we are now, we also have to look back on where we came from. Frankly, the public still owe Bynes an apology for the ‘trial by meme’ they subjected her to all those years ago. 

“I have have no fear of the future,” Bynes concluded. “I’ve been through the worst and came out the other end and survived it so I just feel like it’s only up from here.”

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