Philadelphia Eagles OT Lane Johnson opens up about anxiety, three-game absence

Lane Johnson, an Eagles lineman, explains why he decided to retire from football mid-season while taking care of his mental health. (0:53).
DETROIT -- Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Lane Johnson spoke out about his anxiety on Sunday. He also explained how he was able to leave football earlier in the season.

Johnson stated that he experienced severe withdrawal symptoms when he stopped taking SSRI medications. These antidepressants increase serotonin levels in the brain and cause depression. Johnson compared the symptoms to the flu: "A lot of nausea and vomiting," but the illness doesn't go away.

He stated that he was dealing with the situation for nearly two months and it got worse during the week leading to the Oct. 3 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Football was not even a question at that time. He said that it was something he felt long before the season. I told some close friends, but kept it to myself because I was ashamed and it felt like a crutch. The support I have received from the team, my friends and my family has been amazing. I could not ask for anything better. You're reminded how fortunate you are to be in this position by getting out there and playing again football. Take it day by day."

Johnson drove home to Oklahoma on the day of Chiefs' game.

"I told my mom, and I told my dad where [mentally] and physically." He said that it wasn't enjoyable. "A lot was going through me really for a prolonged period of time. There was much to talk about. They were there for me, they were worried."

Johnson was able to return to Philadelphia that week but missed three games as he waited for the symptoms to resolve. Johnson returned to Philadelphia on Oct. 24, and stated that he is now feeling stable.

Johnson, 31, stated that he began experiencing anxiety in junior college. He was diagnosed with the condition when he arrived at the University of Oklahoma. Johnson has anxiety symptoms similar to Brandon Brooks, right guard. Brooks has missed many games due to anxiety over the course of his career. Both men revealed that they both would vomit prior to games and then talk about it.

Johnson thanks the Eagles players, coaches and staff, particularly Brooks, for their support.

Johnson said, "The main message is to not keep it in your head." Johnson stated that it is easy to do this. Johnson said, "The bad news? I believe a lot more people have it that what meets the eyes." It's easy to make a fool of yourself. It's easy to put on a poker face. I recall hearing at the combine that between 40-50% of NFL players have some type of condition. The game can do many things for you, but it can also be very harmful.