Why The ‘This Is Us’ Panic Attack Scene Showing Randall’s Anxiety Matters
The hit show is helping to lessen the stigma around panic attacks and other anxiety disorders.
If you’re not watching “This Is Us,” you should be. It’s a little frothy in parts, but the storylines are good and the characters are (mostly) relatable. Plus, Mandy Moore!
As fun as the show is to watch, it has also tackled a number of more serious issues. This week, it was shining a spotlight on anxiety attacks—and we are so happy about it.
(Spoiler alert! If you haven’t yet watched this week’s episode, we’ll be giving away a couple details.)
Viewers last week saw Randall, who is arguably the most put-together character on the show, battle with anxiety issues that we learn he has had since childhood. This culminates in a full-blown panic attack that shows Randall shaking, sweating and feeling disoriented. We feel jittery just watching him experience this.
Lessening the stigma around anxiety disorders is a worthy goal, as they are the most common mental illness in the United States. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the US age 18 and older, which is about 18 percent of the population, according to the National Institutes of Health.
According to an interview with Health.com, James Murrough MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, says panic disorders commonly start in childhood. This fits with the flashback scene in which we witness Randall experiencing a panic attack while doing homework as a child.
Anxiety attacks are “characterized by a surge of intense discomfort and fear,” Murrough told Health. According to Dr. Murrough, Randall’s character seems to exhibit signs of what is called a panic disorder—a form of anxiety where someone experiences recurring panic attacks throughout their life.
While anxiety disorders are classified as a mental illness, the symptoms of a panic attack are in no way psychosomatic. Difficulty breathing, blurred vision, shaking and sweating are all common hallmarks of an anxiety attack.
“This was a pretty accurate portrayal. When you’re experiencing a panic attack, it can feel like you’re dying or losing your mind,” Dr. Murrough told Health. “The blurring of his vision gave the feeling of detachment or unreality. De-personalization or feeling disconnected from your body is another common symptom of a panic attack.”
The scene not only accurately portrays an anxiety attack (which drew wide praise from viewers), it also serves as a sort of apology from Kevin to his brother Randall. Where Kevin used to ignore his brother’s anxiety, now he is there to comfort and help him.
“The person who witnesses a panic attack for the first time may also be alarmed,” Dr. Murrough told Health. “Reassurance is important. Telling them that they’re going to get through it, and being there for them as it runs its course.”
You can watch the full scene here:
— This Is Us (@NBCThisisUs) February 15, 2017