Why People Have Panic Attacks

The amygdala, an almond-shaped area of the brain, has long been known for the role it plays in fear. Research has shown that the amygdala generates fear in response to external threats. A recent study showed that other parts of the brain, the brainstem, diencephalon, or insular cortex, can trigger fear from internal threats. In the study, people whose amygdala were damaged and who don’t experience terror, inhaled enough carbon dioxide to cause panic for 30 seconds to a minute. None of the participants were prone to panic attacks, but all three experienced the feeling they were suffocating and panicked. Further research may lead to better treatment for panic attacks, PTSD, and anxiety.

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