Kevin Love, Carson Daly, and You: Why We Should All Be Talking About Anxiety
This past week, professional basketball player Kevin Love opened up about his struggles with mental health and specifically, panic attacks. Days later, Television host and TV personality Carson Daly shared his history with generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks on the Today Show. Although their stories differ slightly in content, their message was the same – anxiety is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.
In an effort to continue to de-stigmatize mental health and increase education on anxiety disorders, I will be profiling some of the most common anxiety disorders over the next few weeks. First up, Panic.
What are Panic Attacks?
Both Kevin and Carson spoke about their first panic attacks. Their fears that something was really, physically wrong with them. For many, panic attacks feel like a heart-attack. People worry that they are dying, losing control, or going to hyperventilate. But, panic attacks are not dangerous. Instead, they are a surge of physical symptoms that come on suddenly and usually peak within 15 minutes. These physical symptoms can include:
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- A feeling of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
- Feelings of unreality (derealization) or being detached from oneself (depersonalization)
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
- Numbness or tingling sensations (paresthesias)
- Chills or hot flushes
For some, panic attacks are triggered by a worry or a feared situation; and for others, they simply come out of the blue. Either way, panic attacks are treatable.
How to Treat Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are perpetuated by the fear of the panic itself and the corresponding physical symptoms. The most effective treatment for panic attacks is Exposure Therapy, which essentially means directly facing the physical symptoms that make you the most anxious.
What?! I know, sounds crazy? But it works.
With the help of an exposure therapist, clients engage in a series of exercises that bring on symptoms similar to those that are typical of anxiety and panic. For example, if your heart always races when you panic, I may have you run in place for one minute. Or, if you always feel dizzy, we may practice spinning in a chair for 30 seconds. By purposefully, repeatedly, and gradually confronting these uncomfortable physical sensations, you learn that the physical symptoms are not harmful and that you can handle them; and in time, your panic subsides.
Kevin Love and Carson Daly took the first steps in treating their panic attacks and you can too. If you are struggling with panic, search out a cognitive behavior therapist who specializes in exposure therapy. Don’t let the stigma of mental health treatment stop you from feeling better
“Mental health isn’t just an athlete thing. What you do for a living doesn’t have to define who you are. This is an everyone thing. No matter what our circumstances, we’re all carrying around things that hurt — and they can hurt us if we keep them buried inside. Not talking about our inner lives robs us of really getting to know ourselves and robs us of the chance to reach out to others in need. So if you’re reading this and you’re having a hard time, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through.” - Kevin Love
"People are so afraid about what other people think of you. I wish people could break down that wall, too," he said. "I guarantee you, everybody has got something." - Carson Daly