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Exclusive: Sam Thompson on his 'frightening' anxiety, his unbreakable bond with Pete Wicks and his emotional ADHD diagnosis

The King of the I'm a Celebrity jungle spoke candidly about all things mental health

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Phoebe Tatham
Content Writer
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King of the jungle Sam Thompson has shed a light on his "frightening" anxiety, his bond with Pete Wicks and his emotional ADHD diagnosis during an exclusive chat with HELLO! magazine.

Sam, who is passionate about mitigating the stigma attached to men's mental health, spoke to us in the wake of his 'The Locker Room' Boots original series which sees the former Made in Chelsea star dive deep into an array of taboo topics.

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Sam teamed up with Boots on their 'The Locker Room' original series

The series is filmed in the locker room of Coventry Rugby and in each episode, Sam opens candid conversations with players about different health conditions – from fertility to mental wellbeing.

The cause is particularly close to the 31-year-old's heart in light of his own personal journey. On the topic of anxiety, Sam told us: "I've told this story before, but it is the most poignant story for me. And it's when I got severe anxiety for the first time. I remember it so well and I genuinely thought I was so unwell."

Sam Thompson on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!© ITV/Shutterstock
Sam Thompson on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!

He went on to say: "It was over a period of time, and I also couldn't sleep. I had really bad insomnia. I didn't understand what was going on… It was really frightening. I'd go to doctors and they'd be like, 'You seem okay in terms of your blood tests'.

"I couldn't understand what was wrong with me. And I genuinely thought I was so unwell. And then I burst into tears in front of my mum, and she said, 'I think you're just really anxious,' and I was like, 'I don't even know what that means.'" 

Musing on gender stereotypes, Sam told us: "When you're a guy, you're brought up to be the stoic, stiff upper lip kind of person. And it's just so archaic and it's so dated, and in fact, I think it's a little bit dangerous."

Speaking about his involvement with the series, he explained: "There's a fear that if you talk about these things, you'll get rejected or dismissed, for not being 'manly' enough. So I think it was a really nice touch to do it, [firstly] in a rugby locker room, which, by the way, stank of all things you'd want it to smell like, but also with these amazing men who just were so open and honest. It was beautiful."

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Sam has spoken candidly about his own struggles

Sam, who is currently dating former Love Island star Zara McDermott, 27, believes that the biggest barrier men are facing in today's society is a hesitance to be open about emotions.

In light of this, the TV star is a huge advocate for open and honest conversations between friends and family. "I'm very lucky," Sam explained. "I've got an amazing family. My sister lives next door so I'll just chew her ear off. And my girlfriend, bless her. I've got enough people that I sort of unload on, to be fair, which is great."

Sam Thompson and Zara McDermott attend the "I Like The Way U Move" BBC Three Series photocall© Getty Images
Sam and Zara started dating in 2019

Since the start of their relationship in 2019, Sam has understandably leant on his girlfriend Zara for emotional support. Reflecting on her incredible empathy, Sam disclosed: "I aspire to be like my girlfriend emotionally. She can literally empathise with anybody about anything.

"And I think that's a really unbelievable trait where you can put yourself in other people's shoes. She's never had anxiety like myself… And whenever I'm sort of feeling a certain way, she'll sit down, she'll listen to me. She doesn't have to understand what I'm going through, but she listens and she is always present. She's always there… and she just has this amazing knack of making you feel comfortable and calm, even if she has no idea what you're going through."

Zara McDermott kissing sam on cheek © Instagram
The couple live in Chelsea, London

Aside from sharing a great friendship with his partner, Zara, Sam is also renowned for sharing an unbreakable bond with his best friend, TOWIE star Pete Wicks. The duo, who first met back in 2018 whilst filming Celebs Go Dating, are honest and frank with each other, to the point where Sam admits he's the first person he'd approach for life advice.

Opening up about their friendship, Sam said: "He's a brilliant listener… Pete Wicks is probably the person I would go to first out of every single person that I know. His life experience is nearly unmatched. He has gone through so much in his life, good and bad, and he's always got the best advice and he's always so uplifting in his own way as well.

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The duo formed a friendship on Celebs Go Dating

"He's just straight to the point. And I don't know if enough people see that side of him. He's a really, really emotionally intelligent guy. I annoy him a lot [but] he is the first person who's ever there for me. So he's just been the best mate I've ever asked for."

Aside from seeking solace in friendships, Sam has sought to better his mental health with professional help in the form of therapy, something which he "wears with pride".

Reflecting on his own journey, Sam candidly shared: "I like to think of myself as 'the modern man,' but I didn't go and get therapy for way too many years afterwards than I really should have. And if that's me, I dread to think how long it might take someone else who could really benefit massively from going to speak to someone professionally and not being embarrassed about it.

man in jeans and T-shirt © Getty Images
The king of the jungle hosts an evening show on HITS Radio

"I wear it with pride now, and I think it's such a huge barrier for men… You need to sit there and you need to actually be able to be comfortable enough to say to people, 'Yeah, I've got therapy on Thursday, so I can't do that.'"

He went on to say: "I go every week. She's awesome… A lot of the time you don't even realise what's going on, it's like talking to a friend, but then they guide you in a certain way and you come to the conclusions yourself, which I think is such a powerful thing."

Beyond seeking professional help, the I'm a Celebrity star also looks to his fluffy feline friends - Albus Dumblepaw and Cedric - for some extra emotional support. Gushing about his Ragdoll cats, Sam revealed: "They are my little fluffy men and if I've ever been really down, I genuinely want to just come home and hug them on the sofa."

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He is also a self-confessed fantasy nerd, something which he claims helps to "cleanse his brain", allowing him to feel revitalised.

"Basically, I'm a fantasy person," he said. "I like going to different worlds and taking myself away from this one. And so I read Lord of the Rings books like this one called The Silmarillion, which was written by J.R.R. Tolkien.

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"I reread the Harry Potter ones. I like to go to different universes and, honestly, it cleanses my brain. I know it sounds weird, but it really, really does. I nerd out on things and when I nerd out on things, I come back to this world and I feel so revitalised… It's my nerdy side that actually gets me through a lot."

Anxiety aside, Sam has also been very upfront about his ADHD diagnosis which he received in 2022. The star, who previously fronted Channel 4's eye-opening documentary titled Sam Thompson: Is This ADHD, has since admitted that he broke down in tears upon receiving his diagnosis.

WATCH: Sam Thompson opens up about his ADHD diagnosis

Recalling the pivotal moment, he shared: "She went 'Yeah you've got ADHD'... She called me a special boy and I just started crying. And she was like 'I'm sure life might have been a little bit harder at school and stuff… You might be told a few things by teachers [but] I just want you to know that you're a very special boy.'

"And I was like, 'Oh my god, I've never been told that in my entire life.' I started crying… And I was like 'Wow, you've kind of let yourself off the hook a bit'. There's a reason for some of the stuff. There's a reason for those bad report cards.

"It's nice that someone, even at 30, can turn around and be like, 'Hey man, you're okay. It's a thing that you have and you're a good dude.' It felt really nice and it was a weight off my shoulder… Having ADHD is not one of those things that you hide behind. I don't believe in that. I'm always trying to be the best version of myself."

Boots has an extensive selection of products and services dedicated to men's health, available through the Boots Health Hub. Boots pharmacists can provide over the counter medicines and healthcare advice in stores.

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