This observation led to the first biological

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Unformatted text preview: at some point in their lives (Kessler et al., 2009, 2006, 2005). Both kinds of panic disorder tend to develop in late adolescence or early adulthood and are at least twice as common among women as among men (APA, 2000). The prevalence of panic disorder is the same across various cultural and racial groups in the United States. Similarly, 12/10/09 11:16:22 AM Anxiety Disorders the disorder seems to occur in equal numbers in cultures across the world, although its specific context differs from country to country (Nazarian & Craske, 2008). Surveys indicate that around 35 percent of individuals with panic disorder in the United States are currently in treatment (Wang et al., 2005). The Biological Perspective In the 1960s, clinicians made the surprising discovery that panic disorder was helped more by certain antidepressant drugs, drugs that are usually used to reduce the symptoms of depression, than by most of the benzodiazepine drugs, the drugs useful in treating generalized anxiety disorder (Klein, 1964; Klein & Fink, 1962). This observation led to the first biological explanations and treatments for panic disorder. :// 117 •norepinephrine•A neurotransmitter whose abnormal activity is linked to panic disorder and depression. •locus ceruleus•A small area of the brain that seems to be active in the regulation of emotions. Many of its neurons use norepinephrine. •amygdala•A small, almond-shaped structure in the brain that processes emotional information. What Biological Factors Contribute to Panic Disorder? To understand the biology of panic disorder, researchers worked backward from their understanding of the antidepressant drugs that seemed to control it.They knew that these particular antidepressant drugs operate in the brain primarily by changing the activity of norepinephrine, yet another one of the neurotransmitters that carry messages between neurons. Given that the drugs were so helpful in eliminating panic attacks, researchers began to suspect that panic disorder might be caused in the first place by abnormal norepinephrine activity. Several studies produced evidence that norepinephrine activity is indeed irregular in people who suffer from panic attacks. For example, the locus ceruleus is a brain area rich in neurons that use norepinephrine. When this area is electrically stimulated in monkeys, the monkeys have a panic-like reaction, suggesting that panic reactions may be related to changes in norepinephrine activity in the locus ceruleus (Redmond, 1981, 1979, 1977). Similarly, in another line of research, scientists were able to produce panic attacks in human beings by injecting them with chemicals known to affect the activity of norepinephrine (Bourin et al., 1995; Charney et al., 1990, 1987). These findings strongly tied norepinephrine and the locus ceruleus to panic attacks. However, research conducted in recent years indicates that the root of panic attacks is probably more complicated than a single neurotransmitter or single brain area. Researchers have determined, for example, that emotional reactions of various kinds are tied to bra...
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