Anxiety is a useful warning sign that helps an individual face potential or real danger. At appropriate levels, it serves as a warning for the presence of internal or external threats, causing a person to be alert and prepare to deal appropriately with such situations. Moreover, moderate levels of anxiety can lead to improved performance in several activities. However, anxiety becomes pathological when its duration is excessively long or its intensity is extremely high and leads to significant suffering and distress. In such cases, anxiety is appropriately described as part of a pathological response, characterizing an anxiety disorder. The historical concept of a unitary anxiety disorder has been replaced by a heterogeneous group of psychopathologies with different etiologies. Panic disorder is a complex anxiety disorder that involves both recurrent, unexpected panic attacks, and persistent concern about having additional attacks. The present chapter reviews current psychobiological perspectives in the etiology and treatment of panic disorder. The first section describes the current classification of this anxiety disorder. We then explore possible neural circuitry associated with panic disorder. Finally, the chapter addresses current treatment approaches, considering the efficacy of different forms of psychotherapy and pharmacological treatments.
Part of the book: A Fresh Look at Anxiety Disorders