Howie Mandelgot alarmingly candid with us over his struggle with depression during the pandemic ... half-jokingly saying his own mental health crisis has propelled his therapist into a higher tax bracket.
Howie went on "TMZ Live" to promote a new documentary -- "Howie Mandel: But, Enough About Me" ... and the doc exposes the extreme difficulty he's had as a germaphobe, and how his issues magnified during lockdown.
It's pretty stunning ... Howie said his private struggle -- which he has endured for years -- almost ended his marriage. He says his wife gave him an ultimatum at some point ... either go to therapy or she's out. He chose therapy, but that wasn't the end of the story.
The 'AGT' judge says he's become solitary and depressed, and there's no easy fix.
That said, Howie says the silver lining to an awful period in American history has been that so many others are struggling at varying levels ... there's a newfound awareness that getting help for mental struggles is admirable.