The Panic Experience – Earl Campbell Part 1

Posted On August 20, 2019

Unless you have suffered from a panic attack, you may not understand just how mysterious and terrifying they can be.  The best way to explain it is to hear about the experience directly from someone who had a panic attack – seemingly out of nowhere. Here’s a quote from a person most of us would consider fearless: Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Most Valuable Player Earl Campbell.  If you’ve had panic attacks, I’ll bet you can relate to what he has to say:

“I stopped at a red light across from a friend’s Exxon station … Out of the blue, my heart started racing. I felt my chest. Then I broke into a cold sweat, began hyperventilating, and became convinced I was having a heart attack.  My heart just kept racing. I couldn’t stop it. I was going to die. The driver behind me started blowing his horn. I needed help. I couldn’t get out of the car. ‘God help me!’ I prayed. Then it stopped – just like that, my heart stopped racing. I put my hand to my heart again. It felt normal. “

There is so much information in this quote to think about.  Let’s start with the fact that being famous, wealthy, and strong didn’t protect Earl from developing panic attacks. He provides a near textbook description of what the symptoms of a panic attack feel like: how it mimics a medical emergency, how it comes without warning, and how the person is sure he is dying. And then, just as quickly as it came on, the panic attack suddenly stops.

Is it any wonder that people experiencing panic attacks desperately search for an explanation and emergency medical help, and then live in fear and dread of when the next horrible event will happen?

In my next blog, I’ll share more of what Earl had to say about his panic experiences, and how  he kept searching for a medical explanation for his symptoms.  In his words, we’ll learn more about  how and why panic sufferers often get caught in an extended medical odyssey that leads to nowhere until finally, a correct diagnosis is delivered and the help needed can be provided.


  1. Earl Campbell & John Ruane, The Earl Campbell Story: A Football Great’s Battle with Panic Disorder, ECW Press, 1999.


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