Howie Mandel reveals he’s ‘incredibly medicated,’ admits mental health struggles are ‘absolute hell’

Known to frequently utter, “don’t touch me!” Howie Mandel shocked everyone in September 2023 as he tightly embraced Reba McEntire on the stage of The Voice.

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

While in the spotlight, Mandel seems energetic and happy, but off screen, he explains he’s a “scared” man, who out of the spotlight prefers to live “in the fetal position.”

And recently, he made a shocking confession, revealing how he manages the OCD that guides him to “absolute hell.” Keep reading to learn more!

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

For many, that fear only lasted a couple of years but for others, the fear of germs is never-ending and debilitating.

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

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

“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.”

Noting that he uses comedy to resist the dangerous pull of OCD, Mandel adds, “I’m most comfortable onstage. And 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 has something to do, like serving as a judge in the America’s Got Talent (AGT) franchise and hosting several other shows.

‘Incredibly medicated’

In 2022, he had a chat with Kelly Clarkson on an episode of her talk show and candidly spoke of his mental health issues.

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

Surprised by Mandel’s alter ego who lives outside the spotlight, Clarkson replied, “It’s so funny to me, because every time I’m around you, even seeing you out of work…you’re so the opposite of what I would think.”

“I know, I’m such a joy, I’m a light, I’m 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 his eagerness when seeing Reba McEntire on the stage of The Voice.

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


wait obsessed that #howiemandel is as big of a #reba fan as us!! #thevoice

♬ original sound – NBC’s The Voice

After she signed his “I [heart] Reba” shirt, Mandel shocked viewers when he tightly embraced McEntire.

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

Acknowledging his puzzling behavior, Mandel says, “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 got Covid – mild because he is “vaxxed” and “boosted” – which reminds us that fearing infection isn’t enough to keep you safe.

What do you think of Howie Mandel and his openness when speaking about his mental health? Please let us know what you think and then share this story so we can get the conversation started!


Thank you for subscribing!
Something went wrong. Please try again later.

Sign up for our newsletter