Max George has told how he experienced his first serious mental health episode after The Wanted hit number one.
The 32-year-old pop singer, from Manchester, recently disclosed he has been struggling with depression since 2010 when the boy band, which also featured Siva Kaneswaran, Jay McGuiness, Tom Parker and Nathan Sykes, “exploded” in the public consciousness following the release of their debut single All Time Low.
George, who competed on Strictly Come Dancing in 2020, was later admitted to hospital for brain scans after The Wanted went on indefinite hiatus in 2014.
He told Hello! magazine: “It doesn’t matter what you do or who you are, you can literally have everything you want, but as success happened, mentally I was breaking down.
“My first proper episode was when The Wanted went to number one. I’d achieved everything I had ever wanted but I couldn’t handle how it exploded so fast.
“It is a question I have been asked before, if I’d had any problems in my life with mental illness and, to be honest, I have not told the truth. I always would say no.
“It took me a hell of a long time to accept myself that I had these problems, and then to be able to speak to my family and close friends because it was so out of character for me.”
George is being supported by his girlfriend Stacey Giggs, ex-wife of footballer Ryan Giggs, after they met two years ago through mutual friends.
He said: “I remember I’d just had a really bad day with it, and she said, ‘What is wrong with you? What do I need to do?’.
“And I said ‘Just try to be normal around me. There is absolutely nothing you can do, unless I’m actually curled up in a ball on the floor and need you to pick me up’.”
Since being diagnosed with depression while in Los Angeles starring in the TV series Glee, George has learned more about the condition.
“I know it is a mental illness, but it was a physical illness for me, too,” he told the magazine.
“From getting out of bed in the morning, I’d get in the lift to go down from my apartment, and I’d get this overwhelming feeling, a bit like claustrophobia, and I’d have to run out and be sick, I couldn’t handle anything.
“I had brain scans and every test under the sun, and they kept saying there is nothing we can physically see, but I knew there was something badly wrong.”
He also praised his fellow Strictly competitor, Men Behaving Badly actress Caroline Quentin, for her support during his time on the show, admitting he had been “so nervous”.
He added: “She is an absolute sweetheart, I love her. I was so nervous on that show, it killed me, and she’d come in, sit me down on the floor, two metres apart, and talk me through it. It was dead nice of her.”
Read the full interview in Hello! magazine, out now.