Prince Harry says he turned to alcohol and drugs to 'mask' his mental-health struggles during a 'nightmare time' in his life

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Prince Harry says he turned to alcohol and drugs to 'mask' his mental-health struggles during a 'nightmare time' in his life
Prince Harry in 2019.KOEN VAN WEEL/AFP via Getty Images
  • On "The Me You Can't See," Prince Harry said he used to use drugs and alcohol to "mask" his feelings.
  • He spoke about dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, saying age 28 to 32 was a "nightmare."
  • He also shared how he struggled to cope with his mother's death and how therapy has helped him.

Prince Harry opened up about using alcohol and drugs to cope and cover up his mental-health issues when he was younger.

The Duke of Sussex spoke with Oprah Winfrey about the struggles he felt growing up and his current coping methods on the first episode of "The Me You Can't See," an Apple+ docuseries he co-created and executive produced with her.

He said he once turned to alcohol and drugs to 'mask' what he was feeling

Harry described his experience from age 28 to 32 as "a nightmare time in my life." He spoke about experiencing panic attacks and severe anxiety, which worsened anytime he saw a camera and left him feeling drained.

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Harry said he turned to alcohol and drugs to cope in an effort to subconsciously avoid the mental-health issues he was dealing with.

"I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs. I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling," he said. "But I slowly became aware that, OK, I wasn't drinking Monday to Friday, but I would probably drink a week's worth in one day on a Friday or a Saturday night."

He said he found himself drinking "because I was trying to mask something," not because he enjoyed doing it.

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When Oprah asked if he knew that he was trying to mask something, he said no, he was "completely unaware of it." He said he felt like his brain was telling him he was "in a fight."

He said he was happiest during his time in the army, but by his late 20s knew he had to deal with his past anger

Prince Harry says he turned to alcohol and drugs to 'mask' his mental-health struggles during a 'nightmare time' in his life
Prince Harry in Afghanistan.John Stillwell/AFP via Getty Images

He said the "happiest time" in his life was the 10 years he spent in the army during his 20s and early 30s, since the experience allowed him to feel more normal.

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He explained that he was never given "special treatment" because of his identity, and instead had to experience army life like any other soldier, which helped because he grew up wanting to be "normal."

"That was where I felt my most normal and actually, you know, in my younger years, the most comfortable I felt was out in Afghanistan, away from the media," he added.

Despite how happy he was at the time, Harry said he realized there were still issues from his past that he had to face.

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"I was gonna have to deal with my past because there was anger there," he said. "Towards my late 20s, I was starting to ask questions of, 'Should I really be here?' ... that was when I suddenly started going, 'You can't keep hiding from this.'"

He said he struggled to cope with his mom's death and has been going to therapy for years

Prince Harry says he turned to alcohol and drugs to 'mask' his mental-health struggles during a 'nightmare time' in his life
Prince Harry is an advocate for mental health.Max Mumby/Indigo / Getty Images

In the interview, he also spoke about how difficult it was to cope with the death of his mother, Princess Diana. He was 12 years old at the time and recalled thinking how that was "his mum" and the people mourning her had never even met her.

Harry described feeling at the time like he was "outside of my body" and just "doing what was expected of me." He recalled that his family told him he should "just play the game" so his life would be easier, but he felt that the only way to free himself was "to tell the truth."

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The duke said he has been in therapy for four years - he's previously said his wife, Meghan Markle, encouraged him to go - to help "heal myself from the past."

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