Psychoanalysis.  2015 Oct;26(3):82-87. 10.18529/psychoanal.2015.26.3.82.

A Psychoanalytic Approach to Panic Disorder Based on Neurobiology and Classical Conditioning Theory

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, Soonchunhyang University, Seoul, Korea.


Panic disorder is an important psychiatric problem accompanied by intense anxiety arising from unexpected circumstances and difficult to differentiate from physical disease because of physical symptoms such as shortness of breadth, and palpitation. The role of the limbic system has been emphasized from recent studies of neurobiological mechanisms and pathogenesis of panic disorder. Meanwhile, the theory that describes mechanisms of panic disorder based on classical conditioning theory has been convincing. In the theory, the first panic attack is considered as an unconditioned stimulus (UCS). However, Freud, Klein, and Bowlby had pointed out that anxiety experiences and insecure attachments in early life could be an important cause of neurosis including panic disorder in later life. In this article, we regard anxiety experiences in early life as UCS of classical conditioning theory, to find connection with the neurobiological theory, classical conditioning theory and the psychoanalytic theory of panic disorder.


Panic disorder; Neurobiology; Classical conditioning; Psychoanalytic theory; Implicit memory

MeSH Terms

Conditioning, Classical*
Limbic System
Panic Disorder*
Psychoanalytic Theory
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