Conquering panic attacks

In this podcast (episode #575) and blog, I talk to world-renowned reporter and author Matt Gutman about managing panic attacks, dealing with shame and regret, how to make our panic work for us and not against us, and so much more!

Matt Gutman is ABC News’s chief national correspondent. A multi-award winning reporter, Matt contributes regularly to World News Tonight with David Muir, 20/20Good Morning America, and Nightline. He has reported from fifty countries across the globe and is the author of The Boys in the Cave: Deep Inside the Impossible Rescue in Thailand.  

Matt can tell you the precise moment when his life was upended. Reporting live on a huge story in January 2020, he found himself in the throes of an on-air panic attack—and not for the first time. The truth is that Matt had been enduring panic attacks in secret for twenty years: soul-bruising episodes that left his vision constricted, his body damp, his nerves shot. Despite the challenges, he had carved out a formidable career, reporting from war zones and natural disasters before millions of viewers on Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and 20/20. His nerves typically “punched through” to TV audiences, making his appearances kinetic and often unforgettable.

But his January 2020 broadcast was unusual for all the wrong reasons. Mid-panic, Matt misstated the facts of a story on Kobe Bryant, a blunder that led to a monthlong suspension, not to mention public shame and personal regret.

This was a reckoning. Matt’s panic attacks had become too much for him to bear in secret. And, through his journey seeking healing, he wrote his incredible bestseller No Time to Panic: How I curbed my anxiety and conquered a lifetime of panic attacks. Talking to experts, therapists, healers and scholars, Matt learned that he didn’t have a “broken” brain. He had to learn to change to way he saw his panic attacks and what they were telling him. They were preparing his mind, brain and body for action against something that was impacting him.

On his healing journey, Matt realized at the core of his panic attacks was his grief of losing his father at a young age. He realized that he had become very good at masking his pain, but over time it caught up to him, eventually impacting his career in 2020. 

He learned that, no matter how hard he tried, he could not outrun his past—whatever he tried to suppress exploded in other areas of his life, resulting in his constant struggle with panic attacks. And Matt realized that, after trying all kinds of therapies, medications, substances, and ceremonies, he had to acknowledge his past pain and deal with his grief to find true and lasting healing. He had to face his panic attacks and learn what they were trying to tell him about himself, what he was experiencing and WHY. 

That is not to say his past pain just disappeared. Matt’s grief is still there today—he didn’t erase those memories. But it no longer controls his life. He worked out what was going on inside of him, confronted it, and worked on his healing over time. He allowed himself to be vulnerable and feel the pain, rather than living in fear that his deep “well of grief” would consume him.  

Matt’s journey shows us how we all have to face our past, and that we can do this. We all have to learn how to manage what has happened to us before it takes over our lives, which starts with us acknowledging our pain and then working through it. This journey takes time and will look different for everyone, but healing is possible!

For more on managing panic attacks and healing the past, listen to my podcast with Matt (episode #575) and check out his incredible book. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).      

This podcast is sponsored by:

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Podcast Highlights

1:50 Matt’s incredible story

5:57 Matt’s big secret & how it impacted his career 

15:30 Why we can’t outrun our past

17:40 Facing the well of grief

18:30, 36:45 Matt’s healing journey

41:20 The power of reframing how you see a panic attack 

46:30, 52:30 Why Matt wrote No Time to Panic

Switch On Your Brain LLC. is providing this podcast as a public service. Reference to any specific viewpoint or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by our organization. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. If you have any questions about this disclaimer, please contact     

This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional. 

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