Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers during a game against the Detroit Pistons on January 28, 2018.
David Liam Kyle—NBAE/Getty Images
By Jamie Ducharme
March 6, 2018
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love is speaking out about mental health and his first panic attack, after years of silence dictated by what he calls the “playbook” of manhood.

In an essay for the Players’ Tribune, the 29-year-old NBA All-Star details what it felt like to have his first panic attack — and what it felt like to seek help and address his mental health.

“It came out of nowhere,” Love writes of his panic attack, which he suffered during a November game against the Atlanta Hawks. “I’d never had one before. I didn’t even know if they were real. But it was real — as real as a broken hand or a sprained ankle. Since that day, almost everything about the way I think about my mental health has changed.”

The experience convinced Love to see a therapist and to go public about his internal struggle, in hopes of inspiring others to do the same. “No matter what our circumstances, we’re all carrying around things that hurt — and they can hurt us if we keep them buried inside,” Love writes. “Not talking about our inner lives robs us of really getting to know ourselves and robs us of the chance to reach out to others in need.”

Here’s what to know about panic attacks, the condition that prompted Love to speak out.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), is “the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort,” accompanied by physical symptoms that peak within just a few minutes. Episodes can come out of nowhere, but stress, genetics, other mental health conditions and certain personality traits can all predispose people to getting more frequent panic attacks, according to the Mayo Clinic. Panic attacks can be so unpleasant and scary that many sufferers develop an intense fear of the next one striking, according to the ADAA.

What are panic attack symptoms?

Physical experiences can vary quite a bit, but panic attack symptoms typically include shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, trembling, accelerated heart rate, nausea, dizziness, chills, heat, numbness and fear of dying or losing control, according to the ADAA. Love wrote that he experienced a racing heart, difficulty breathing and a spinning head, among other symptoms.

How can you stop a panic attack?

Therapy is often used to help people understand their panic attacks and work through any underlying causes, the Mayo Clinic says. People who have frequent panic attacks, and who persistently worry about when they’ll have their next episode, may be diagnosed with panic disorder, a chronic condition that can be managed with a combination of medication, therapy and healthy lifestyle habits, according to the Mayo Clinic.

What’s the difference between an anxiety attack vs panic attack?

While anxiety can be accompanied by many of the same physical symptoms as a panic attack, the ADAA says the physical manifestation of a panic attack tends to be more severe and faster both to begin and to escalate — to the point that many people end up at the emergency room, believing they’ve had a heart attack or other life-threatening issue.

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