1 December 2019

‘I lose grip on my own being’

Comedian Ben Miller opened up about his experience with panic attacks in Movember’s new podcast series

In the opening episode of Movember’s all new podcast series, British actor and comedian Ben Miller delved into his experience with panic attacks, which left him feeling like he was swirling “down an existential plug hole”.
The 53-year-old told host Tim Lovejoy he had a “breakdown” in his early 30s, forcing him to withdraw from work completely after he “stopped functioning”.
Ben said: “I just couldn’t function. I had to phone all the people I was working with and tell them I couldn’t do anything at the time. I just had to be at home and do nothing.
“I went to counselling, and started doing cognitive behavioural therapy because I couldn’t do anything. At that point, I had to make a lot of changes in my life. I had to rethink a lot of what I was doing.”
Miller recognises the crucial role Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has played in helping him manage panic attacks since his first breakdown.
“CBT really makes sense to me. You don’t change the way you think, you change the way you behave. Changing your behaviour will change your thinking.”
The comedian told Lovejoy he meditates every day and is a regular in therapy. But Miller still struggles with episodes of panic, and admitted to having a “mid-life crisis”.
He said: “I spent the first half of my life thinking I wasn’t going to die. At that mid-life moment, I was thinking: ‘It’s past half time’. I really panicked.
“I had a mid-life crisis, and I wrote science books. I started to have a lot of panic attacks, but I found a way out through writing.”


“I had a mid-life crisis, and I wrote science books. I started to have a lot of panic attacks, but I found a way out through writing.”

Miller describes the intensity of his panic attacks, which can often be entirely consuming.
He told Lovejoy: “Every panic attack I have seems to be completely different. I never know I’m going to have one.
“My heart starts racing; I’m panicking like I would if there was real and present danger, even when there isn’t any.
“Sometimes I feel like I go down an existential plug hole. I don’t know who I am, what my name is, where I am, what I’m doing. I literally lose my grip on my own being. Other times I’ll physically panic and run around a room like a chicken in a slaughterhouse.”
“I think it’s because I push stuff down, I work too hard, I keep busy all the time, and I don’t feel things enough. So whenever it senses a gap in the defences it will come out.”
Miller wants to encourage other men to seek help if they have a problem.
He said: “Men are very emotional, they just aren’t as emotional in the same contexts as women.

“But there is a problem in the sense that there’s a feedback loop when men get into trouble.
“Because we’ve trained ourselves not to be emotional in social situations, we forget sometimes that an important component of that is sharing the problem with someone. Sharing the issues with someone, and getting help. Everybody benefits as a result of that.”
Recorded at Ted's Grooming Room in London, the Movember podcast is designed to give listeners real cuts and real conversations about what it means to be a man today.
Each episode sees Tim Lovejoy hold open and honest conversations with celebrity guests because, whilst the moustache has always been the conversation starter, it’s the talking and being there for someone that really matters.
Along with Miller, the other new episodes see Lovejoy chat with YouTuber Jim Chapman and stand-up comic Paul Chowdhry. Episodes of ‘In The Barber Chair’ will be available with all major podcast outlets.