Lily Collins Opens Up About 'Toxic' Ex Who 'Made Me Feel Very Small' & Fans Think They Know Who It Is

The actress told author Glennon Doyle the after-effects linger even now that she's married.

Images of Lily Collins @lilyjcollins/Instagram; Tinseltown/Shutterstock; Canva

Actress Lily Collins, 33, lives a charmed life. 

The daughter of music icon Phil Collins and Jill Tavelman, is the star of Netflix's runaway hit romantic comedy series "Emily In Paris," and even found her own romantic happy ending in 2021 when she married her husband Charlie McDowell, 39.

As well as being a screenwriter and director, Charlie is the son of actors Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen. His stepfather is 'Cheers' star Ted Danson 


In a recent interview, Collins reveals her life hasn't all been candy-colored Parisian fantasies and true l'amour, and that the good only came after a long and harrowing struggle.

Lily Collins told author Glennon Doyle that she endured a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship before meeting her husband.

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Who is Lily Collins' abusive ex-boyfriend?

Collins recently appeared on the "Untamed" author's wildly popular podcast "We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle" and opened up about the toxic relationship.


Collins told Doyle and her cohosts, her wife and U.S. Women's Soccer champion Abby Wambach and her sister Amanda Doyle, that the "awful words" her ex used still impact her today.

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Fans suspect Jamie Campell Bower is the 'toxic' ex-boyfriend Lily Collins accused of emotional abuse.

Based on Collins' comments that the abusive relationship was "10 years ago," fans think it may have been British actor Jamie Campbell Bower, 34.


Campbell Bower, who has starred in the "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" film series and Netflix's "Stranger Things," dated Collins from 2012 to 2018.

Several fans pointed out on Reddit forums that Campbell Bower has admitted to substance abuse issues and hurtful behavior to loved ones.

In a series of tweets in 2022, he discussed his struggles with addiction and how it impacted his relationships.

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Lily Collins said her ex-boyfriend's verbal and emotional abuse caused her to suffer anxiety and panic attacks.

Collins told Doyle and her cohosts that her ex would say shockingly cruel things to her. 


"My romantic toxic relationship was a lot of verbal and emotional abuse and being made to feel very small," Collins told them.

She said her ex would use "belittling words," "call me Little Lily" and "use awful words about me in terms of what I was wearing and would call me a whore and all these things."



The 'Emily In Paris' star added, "I became quite silent and comfortable in silence and feeling like I had to make myself small to feel super safe."


Collins went on to say that her lifelong battle with anxiety was heightened by the abuse, and escalated to panic attacks and other terrifying symptoms.

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Collins added that her ex's abuse also began to take a toll on her physical health.

"My body was physically reacting in ways I’ve never experienced," she told Doyle.

"My skin was breaking out...and I had kidney infections...heart palpitations...all of these weird physical manifestations."

But at the time, she says she didn't understand that her physical ailments and the abuse she was suffering were related.


"I didn’t...put the two and two together as saying, your body is telling you this [relationship] is not something you’re supposed to be in."

The trauma Collins suffered still impacts her to this day, even though she's now in a happy and stable marriage.

Collins said the anxiety and panicked feelings from her abusive relationship still return from time to time, even though the relationship was years ago.

"...Your gut reacts, your heart drops, your heart starts beating, and all of a sudden you’re taken back to that moment."

The difference is she now has her husband's care and support when the trauma comes roaring back, and she says he's often the first person to notice she's struggling.


“When I’m in one of those moments, it is so clear to Charlie, who can read me like a book, and he calls it out in a moment," she told Doyle. "This is what healthy ... communication can feel like."

And she told Doyle and her co-hosts about how therapy and simply talking about her experiences has changed her life and helped her heal.

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Theories about Campbell Bower following the release of Collins' 2017 memoir "Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me," in which she discussed the impact her abusive relationship had on her battle with the eating disorder anorexia.


Campbell Bower has since sought substance abuse and mental health treatment, and went on to tweet in 2022 that "each day is a chance to start again. Atone for mistakes and grow."

Whether it was Campbell Bower who abused Collins or someone else, both stars' stories show there is always hope for healing from toxic relationships, no matter how dark things may get.

Eating disorders, mental illness, substance abuse, and emotional, verbal and physical abuse at the hands of a spouse or intimate partner are extremely common.

If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, contact ANAD's (Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) free help line at 1-888-375-7767.


For help with mental illness or substance abuse, contact the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association) hotline at 1-800-662-HELP.

To get help with domestic physical, verbal or emotional abuse by a spouse or partner, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233, or text LOVEIS to 22522. 

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.