ABC’s Matt Gutman on panic attacks as a war correspondent

Sep 13, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: 3:33 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Experts believe that 50% of all Americans will experience a panic attack at some time in their lives. Half of us. And one of them is someone you’ve heard on KSL NewsRadio for a while — ABC’s Matt Gutman suffers from panic attacks. 

My radio partner Tim Hughes and I had a chance to interview Gutman this morning. He has just completed a book entitled “No Time to Panic, How I Curbed My Anxiety and Conquered a Lifetime of Panic Attacks“.

We started talking regularly with Gutman on KSL NewsRadio about 18 years ago.

“I think I first started talking to you when I was in Gaza covering conflict there,” Gutman said. “Then in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was a war correspondent for my first seven or eight years. I still do disasters and go back to cover the war in Ukraine.”

We asked Gutman how in the world a person can be a war correspondent while suffering from panic attacks.

“I call it the paradox of the courageous coward,” he said. “I’m comfortable with a certain kind of danger, physical danger. I’m less comfortable with the social kind.”

What caused Matt Gutman’s panic attacks?

Gutman described his panic attacks as being connected to a fear that he wouldn’t be perfect.

“For many years, I suffered panic attacks live on air,” he said. “Typically, it would happen when I had to do short live intros, and it had to be perfect. That fear of perfection caused my brain to melt down.”

Hughes shared with Gutman that he has a 40-year-old daughter who is going through this.

“She is actually in treatment right now,” Hughes said. “I stumbled across an article in Time yesterday about your book, and I sent it to my daughter. Your findings and your journey through this are going to help a lot of people understand that you aren’t going to die from your panic attack. You might feel like it.”

“Panic is normal,” Gutman explained. “It’s also massively common, but people like me didn’t know. I went to therapy for 20 years because of some trauma in my childhood. I should have known what anxiety and panic is, but I didn’t.”

It’s in our bodies

The symptoms of a panic attack almost perfectly imitate a heart attack — rapid breathing, sweating, heart pounding, tunnel vision, trembling.

“Even practiced 911 operators cannot tell the difference,” Gutman said.

Millions of Americans check themselves into hospitals every year because they think they’re dying of a heart attack. Nearly 40% of those people are actually having a panic attack.

“It’s not in our heads,” Gutman said. “It’s in our bodies.”

How he overcame his attacks

Gutman told us that he tried every hallucinogen, everything pharmacology had to offer, to get relief from his panic attacks.

“The first and best medicine is sharing,” he said. “It was a dark secret that I couldn’t tell anybody until after my last panic attack on air in December of 2020. I was flying home and I started yammering to this wonderful woman next to me. I realized then that sharing is really good medicine.”

He also recommended cutting your caffeine intake for people with anxiety.

“Cutting your alochol,” Gutman added. “The stuff we know to do for ourselves. Being kind to our bodies.”

If you are suffering from panic attacks, Gutman’s message for you is: “You’re not alone. It’s totally normal. You’re going to be okay. A panic attack only lasts for 15 to 60 seconds. That is the period during which your brain is assessing the threat. After that, it’s just anxiety.”

For those of you who do not suffer or have not had a panic attack, Gutman asks for understanding.

“We are your friends, family members, your colleagues. There are more of us than you think.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Mental Health

Chief of Police for Price City Police Department, Brandon Sicilie, holding PeeDee....

Britt Johnson

Abandoned puppy finds a home at the Price Police Department

PeeDee, a puppy found on the side of a roadway during a dispatch call, has found a new home with the Price City Police Department.

2 days ago

baby feet, utah postpartum retreat helps new moms...

Britt Johnson

Utah company aims to help postpartum moms with special retreats

The founder of Utah Postpartum Retreat said she thinks new moms are at high risk for developing postpartum mood disorders because they lack support.

3 days ago

Rep. Tyler Clancy, R-Provo, speaks about HB261 at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 19,...

Aimee Cobabe

Lawmaker wants to increase maximum amount of time for involuntary civil commitments

Utah lawmakers are supporting a bill to increase the maximum amount of time for involuntary civil commitments.

11 days ago

woman with a therapeutic device on her head to treat depression...


A brain pacemaker helped a woman with crippling depression. It may soon be available to more people

Researchers say deep brain stimulation, or DBS — could eventually help many of the nearly 3 million Americans with treatment-resistance depression.

11 days ago

Mothers and mental health...

Mira Cheng, CNN

Maternal mental health conditions drive climbing death rate in US, research says

The maternal mortality rate in the US is two- to threefold greater than in other high-income countries and increasing.

11 days ago

Students walk to their buses after school at Rose Springs Elementary in Erda, Tooele County, on Thu...

Britt Johnson

Schools in Utah to get Kindness eWalls

Kindness eWalls display positive messages submitted by a school's students, teachers and parents.

12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

ABC’s Matt Gutman on panic attacks as a war correspondent