Aubrey Huff, first baseman and left fielder for the San Francisco Giants, recently returned to the team after spending 15 days on the disabled list in order to seek treatment an anxiety disorder. Precipitating his temporary departure was a series of severe panic attacks the ballplayer suffered in April during an away game doubleheader with the NY Mets.
In an in-depth interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Huff candidly describes an eight-hour panic attack that first began in a New York hotel room.
“I couldn’t breathe,” Huff recalls. “I felt I was taking short breaths. Right then and there I thought I was having a heart attack. I told myself, I’ll be damned if I’m going to be sitting in this hotel room and die of a heart attack. I’ve got to get out of here.”
Rather than let Giants staff know what was going on, Huff headed home to Florida to recuperate. After suffering another panic attack the following day, Huff then called Giants athletic trainers, at fist telling them he was having a family emergency; he eventually admitted to having panic attacks.
As defined in DSM IV, a panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical and emotional reactions, including at least four of the following symptoms:
– palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
– trembling or shaking
– sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
– feeling of choking
– chest pain or discomfort
– nausea or abdominal distress
– feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
– derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
– fear of losing control or going crazy
– fear of dying
– paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
– chills or hot flushes
After rapid onset, most symptoms tend to peak after 10 to 20 minutes, but some can linger for hours. Many who experience a panic attack, mostly for the first time, fear they are having a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. Panic attacks are frequently described one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of a person’s life.
It is unclear what provokes the attacks, though many can be traced back to stressful events or major life transitions; a history of panic attacks may run in families. As Huff recalls, “Where this panic attack came from, I don’t know. All I know is it was there. I can’t explain it. I almost wish I had broken my leg than had that. I can control that. I know what’s happening. This, I didn’t know what was happening. You can’t control it. It’s scary.”
Some people may only have one or two isolated panic attacks and never see a return of symptoms. Others may develop panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder marked by recurrent panic attacks or intense fear (anxiety) over having another attack. When Huff was placed on the disabled list, manager Bruce Bochy confirmed that it was to seek treatment for an anxiety disorder, which may indicate that Huff was formally diagnosed with panic disorder.
Huff is now receiving treatment from a local mental health professional in San Francisco. As of mid-May, he is off the disabled list and back in team rotation. By all accounts, he appears to be doing well.
“Obviously I’ve been seeing somebody here in town to kind of work out some of these issues,” Huff admits. “It took everything I could to get up here from Tampa after I freaked out, if you will. But since I got here I’ve been fine.”
Interestingly, the Giants player now joins a small but high-profile list of major-league players who have been sidelined by anxiety in the past several years. Those players include Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto, the 2010 National League Most Valuable Player; pitcher Zack Greinke, the 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner; and former A’s pitcher Justin Duchscherer.
Aubrey Huff Opens Up About His Anxiety Attacks
Aubrey Huff seeks anxiety treatment – 15-day DL