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What happens in my brain during a panic attack?

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Panic attacks are episodes of extreme fear often happen without warning. Scientists think, but are not sure, that parts of the brain that are tied to fear become more active during a panic attack. One study found that people with panic disorder had lots of activity in a part of their brains tied to the “fight or flight” response.

Other studies have found possible links between panic disorder and the chemicals in your brain. The condition may also be linked to an imbalance in serotonin levels, which can affect your moods.

SOURCES:

Harvard Health Publications: “Understanding the Stress Response.”

Robertson, D. , Elsevier Academic Press, 2004. Primer on the Autonomic Nervous System, Second Edition

The BMJ : “Panic Disorder.”

Biological Psychiatry : “Do Unexpected Panic Attacks Occur Spontaneously?” “Functional t1ρ Imaging in Panic Disorder.”

Psychological Medicine : “Distinct Phasic and Sustained Brain Responses and Connectivity of Amygdala and Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis During Threat Anticipation in Panic Disorder.”

The Journal of Neuroscience: “Reduced Serotonin Type 1A Receptor Binding in Panic Disorder.”

Mayo Clinic: “Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Panic Disorder.”

Centre for Clinical Interventions (Government of Western Australia): “Panic Stations.”

National Institute of Mental Health: “Anxiety Disorders.”

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari on June 15, 2017

SOURCES:

Harvard Health Publications: “Understanding the Stress Response.”

Robertson, D. , Elsevier Academic Press, 2004. Primer on the Autonomic Nervous System, Second Edition

The BMJ : “Panic Disorder.”

Biological Psychiatry : “Do Unexpected Panic Attacks Occur Spontaneously?” “Functional t1ρ Imaging in Panic Disorder.”

Psychological Medicine : “Distinct Phasic and Sustained Brain Responses and Connectivity of Amygdala and Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis During Threat Anticipation in Panic Disorder.”

The Journal of Neuroscience: “Reduced Serotonin Type 1A Receptor Binding in Panic Disorder.”

Mayo Clinic: “Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Panic Disorder.”

Centre for Clinical Interventions (Government of Western Australia): “Panic Stations.”

National Institute of Mental Health: “Anxiety Disorders.”

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari on June 15, 2017

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