Emmerdale star Steve Halliwell says Zak Dingle fears he has a mental illness

As fans of Emmerdale will know, Zak Dingle has radically changed since it was revealed that he was the Judgement Day attacker who nearly murdered Cain Dingle (Jeff Hordley)…

He’s been drinking way too much, been isolating himself and refusing to work, and recently, he even got lost in the woods at Home Farm, putting his grandson Samson in danger.

And today, Soaplife reveal that actor Steve Halliwell, who of course plays Zak, has said that the thing his character fears most is being diagnosed with a mental illness.

So when Zak collapses in the Woolpack and is rushed to hospital, he’s horrified when the doctors tell him he’s had a panic attack.

Steve – who’s also starred in Cracker and Coronation Street – explained, “He wants the doctor to say it’s something physical. He doesn’t want to be told his problem is a mental illness…”

And of what’s led up to the crisis, Steve said, “He nearly killed his own son and he can’t forget what he did. It doesn’t help that it didn’t change anything.

“Cain hasn’t changed and Zak’s grip on the family is slipping more and more away from him.

“The family think he’s odd due to drinking too much, but he was odd before he started drinking. He’s numbing the way he feels.”

And when asked if it scares Zak that he seems to be very confused a lot of the time, Steve said, “Yes. Zak keeps getting lost around Home Farm – where he was a gamekeeper-come-poacher for years.

“He should know it backwards, but he keeps losing his way, losing his memory and forgetting things.

“He doesn’t want to face the possibility he’s having a nervous breakdown. He’s getting depressed and beginning to think he has a physical illness.

”He’s grumpy and snappy and won’t talk to [the family] about his problems because he hasn’t faced them himself. In one scene you see him talking to himself and saying, ‘I’m losing my mind’.”

Of why Zak can’t talk to his wife Lisa (Jane Cox) about what’s happening to him, Steve said, “Pride. Mental illness doesn’t run in the Dingle family and he considers it a major weakness.

“Zak’s always thought people with mental problems should just get on with it – and now he finds he can’t.”

Steve then explained what happens when Zak’s taken ill at the pub. He said, “He’s feeling faint and thinks everyone’s eyes are on him. Then he collapses.

“Lisa thinks he’s had a heart attack and calls an ambulance. He’s then rushed to hospital, where he’s wired up to a heart monitor.

“Zak’s frightened he is seriously ill, but it’s the result of a panic attack. People can think their heart is giving way when actually it’s down to mental rather than physical problems.”

But of course, he’s diagnosed with having had a panic attack, which Steve says Zak doesn’t take well.

He said, “Zak can’t take it. He tells himself that because the medics have said there’s nothing physically wrong, he must be OK.

“He can’t tell anyone he’s having panic attacks – that would be weak and too much for his macho pride.”

And finally, when asked if Zak might end up alienating Lisa because he won’t talk to her about what’s going on, Steve said, “It’s possible. She’s a very caring woman, but because he’s telling her his lies and not opening up to her, it could make her go the other way.”

We’ll see that drama play out in forthcoming episodes.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.