Carson Daly Opens Up About His Anxiety and Panic Attacks: 'You Feel Like You're Dying'
Carson Daly wants people dealing with anxiety and panic attacks to know that they aren’t alone — he, too, has suffered from them since childhood.
The Voice host and Today co-host said his anxiety started as a child.
“Looking back on my life, I was a worrywart kid. I was always worrying,” he said. “My father died when I was 5. I had an ulcer when I was in high school. I’ve been nervous my whole life. My very first panic attack happened — and, by the way, I had no idea what it was at the time — when I was a host at MTV. The success of my career, I flew to New York, and my life changed overnight. I had a hard time breathing. I was terrified for no apparent reason.”
He started to have panic attacks that became so severe that he went to the hospital.
“You feel like you’re dying” Daly said. “In fact, I went to the hospital. I’ve got leads [for heart monitoring] on my chest, and I’m like, my heart is going to stop, or I’m going to have a heart attack, and of course you’re perfectly fine.”
And Daly said his anxiety is unrelated to being on TV — 20 years later, he still has it.
“To this day, whenever I’m on television … I’m never still,” he said. “Some days I’m just a little anxious. And you’ll see me, you’ll be able to tell. I’m fidgeting.”
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He adds: “People think, they hear anxiety, anxiety, high-pressure life, you’re on television. It’s nothing to do with that. I’ve had heightened anxiety and mild panic attacks at the playground with my own children and wife there, and the feeling was so terrifying and so gripping that I literally had to leave and excuse myself.”
For years Daly thought what was happening to him was anything but common — until he had a conversation with a friend.
“What helped me is talking to a friend once who said, ‘Everything you’re experiencing I have too. You have anxiety. You should go talk to somebody about it.’ And I was like ‘It’s a thing? Anxiety is a thing?’ ” Daly said, which pushed him to find help.
“I opted for a cognitive therapist, somebody who really teaches you about anxiety and the model of it, and offers you tools to work through it. “Muscle retention and relaxation really helps me.”
Daly said that the flip side to his anxiety is that his brain works in amazing ways.
“This is the way I was born, this is the way I’m hardwired, this is kind of the downside of the way God made me, and there’s a tremendous upside as well,” he said. “I’m very sensitive, I love music, and music moves me in a very visceral way physically, so I get the chills hearing soul music, definitely. When I’m with my family, it’s a euphoric moment, and those things resonate to me very, very deeply, and that’s important to me because I feel so much love, and empathy and compassion. And that’s just the flip side to a lot of the anxiety.”
Though he didn’t expect to talk about his anxiety on national television, Daly said he’s proud to do it.
“It’s something that I can’t change about myself, and in fact, it’s okay, I’ve learned to embrace it,” he said. “And hopefully, but just being honest and opening up, it will inspire others to do the same.”