Narrator: This is Science Today. Millions of people each year suffer from panic attacks. which are repeated episodes of intense fear that often strike without warning. Lynn Martin, a research specialist in psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, says people with this anxiety disorder experience a high. physiologic fight or flight response.
Martin: I often describe to people if they don't really know what that experience is like. it would be like driving down a San Francisco hill and suddenly discovering your brakes failed. That's a natural, protective, adaptive panic attack where immediately our reflexes and physical selves go into high alert to protect us. Many people have these experiences in panic disorder that level, that are unprovoked.
Narrator: For a long time, these attacks were dealt with as nurturing and environmental issues.
Martin: But it looks like you have to be born with a biological vulnerability to it.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.