ABC News' Matt Gutman faces his biggest fear in new book

In "No Time To Panic," Gutman details unconventional methods to tap into deep-rooted pain and anxiety

ByGina Sirico KABC logo
Monday, September 18, 2023
New book chronicles ABC News's Matt Gutman's panic attack struggles
ABC News' Matt Gutman details his panic attack struggles and how he copes in his new book.

LOS ANGELES -- You know Matt Gutman's work as a journalist on ABC News. From natural disasters to wars, no assignment is too dangerous for the fearless correspondent.

But Gutman was holding something back. For years, on the air and off the air, he'd suffered from massive panic attacks.

"For some reason, I feel I can control the situation and myself when there are rockets coming down from Gaza, when I'm in the eye of a hurricane," Gutman told ABC7. "But it's when things are calm and there's the expectation of perfection, that I feel the overwhelming burden of anxiety and stress."

Matt chronicled his struggles, and his determination to find a solution, in "No Time To Panic: How I Curbed My Anxiety and Conquered A Lifetime of Panic Attacks."

The journey to writing this book began in January, 2020. In the middle of a report on the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter, along with seven others, deep rooted pain bubbled up for Gutman, causing a panic attack on live TV.

"This one was a little different. There was other stuff going on in my brain at the time. It just so happened that Kobe was basically the same age as my father when he died in a plane crash. And I was the same age as Gianna," Gutman said. "I've been so good my whole career at compartmentalizing and keeping the painful stuff away. And I guess I failed and made a horrific mistake live on TV. And I regret it. And I ended up being suspended for a month."

Gutman searched for panic attack support groups but found they don't really exist. So he began researching and doing what he does best.

"I knew that I felt broken inside and that I needed healing and I needed to find a way to do it and there wasn't a roadmap," Gutman said. "Eventually I did the only thing I know how to do, which is report."

"I spoke to evolutionary psychologists and biologists and I spent months on this. And eventually I learned that we are wired to be anxious. It's not a mutation, it's an adaptation," Gutman revealed. "And that made me feel so much better, just the knowledge that I'm not broken, that I'm normal and that there are lots of fellow travelers; 28% of Americans are expected to have a panic attack in their lifetimes."

"I also figured out quickly that there's some deep stuff inside me from my childhood from PTSD from this job, in warzones, being held captive in Venezuela and being accused of being a spy for many days - that was not comfortable. And so I had stuff to deal with. And that's why I ended up gravitating away from conventional psychology to altered states," Gutman said.

From holotropic breathwork to reiki to psychedelics and even toad venom, Matt's unconventional route helped him dig deep and get to the pain he had been carrying with him since childhood. And it's given him the tools to be able to handle a panic attack should another one arise.

"The real change is that I've been able to tap into my pain. And the drill sergeant in my head that would tell me 'you're terrible, you're a failure, you're miserable look at you...' he's retired," Gutman said. "If I have a panic attack, I know I'll get through it and it's going to be OK."

Gutman knows his journey will differ from others'. But there are plenty of lessons that he hopes readers take away from "No Time To Panic." Two are especially key.

"The first thing I want people to know is they're not alone, right? There are well over 100 million Americans who've had a panic attack in their lifetime," Gutman said. "The second is, panic is normal. We are wired for it and it's not a life sentence."