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Where does the panic feelings come from when around others? From what I can gather, it comes from the primitive, subconscious part of the brain called the amygdala. This is what turns the alarm bells on. Despite rational thoughts that a particular situation isn't threatening and there is no reason I should give a damn, there is adrenaline and cortisol surging through my body. My body tightens up. My palms will begin to sweat. I have a suffocating sensation in my throat. I have tried all types of medications but they do not do anything to help calm this automatic panic-like effect. I have tried exposure but each time the feelings come back just as strong if not stronger than before. It is like I cannot keep this automatic, subconscious part of my brain in check. It has a power over me that I can't yet seem to harness. It is obvious that this is the source of my problem and am guessing is the source of all SAD'ers as well. How can this fear reaction be lessened and eventually disappear when I can't get to it and reason with it? I can take all the benzos I want but it won't keep the alarm bells from triggering. If only there were a medication that could directly affect the amygdala so it can calm down and see that its ok not to go haywire on me during ridiculous times. Does anyone have any thoughts on this. I would appreciate any feedback.
 

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I know a bit about this topic since I used to do neuroimaging research (though my specialty was schizophrenia). From what I understand/recall, the theories of anxiety disorders don't so much focus on the amygdala overactivating. Rather, there were two main themes I remember hearing about:

1) Certain frontal lobe areas (particularly subgenual cingulate) that are supposed to inhibit threat responses don't necessarily work as well as they should. Basically, in a normal brain, it's like the amygala is telling the frontal lobe there's a problem, and the frontal lobe is replying "okay, we're working on it, now be quiet."

2) Certain neurotransmitter systems that regulate attention aren't working right. Basically, at a given time, there are millions of things your brain notices that are competing for attention, and the brain has systems for filtering out the ones that don't matter. If that system isn't good enough at filtering out irrelevant data, you tend to become psychotic. If it's too good at filtering things, you get excessively hung up on specific worries, and are prone to develop OCD, anxiety, etc.

Again though, this is a simplified telling by by someone who didn't directly study mood & anxiety disorders.
 
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