The Role of Neurotransmitters in Panic and Anxiety.
The research of anxiety, panic disorder, and threat sensitivity has, for a long time, focused on serotonin. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter used primarily by receptors in the brain's frontal lobe is commonly thought to be involved in a persons aggression level and play a key role in anxiety and depression. However, the role of serotonin as the key factor in the regulation of anxiety and threat sensitivity has been challenged by the increasing belief that other neurotransmitters may also be at the root of threat sensitivity. Specifically, Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and norepinephrine.
Norepinephrine is a hormone produced by the body in response to stress, much like cortisone. Research has shown that the body's failure to properly regulate the release of the hormone may cause the body to go into the “fight or flight” process, characteristic of anxiety disorders . A class of pharmaceuticals called “beta-blockers”, are currently showing some promise in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Traditionally used to treat high blood pressure, beta-blockers may also help regulate the release of stress induced hormones such as norepinephrine, thus reducing the severity and frequency of anxiety and panic attacks.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter believed to play a key role in the regulation of anxiety. Some research exists that has linked the sensitivity of GABA receptors to neuroticism. Other studies have shown that people with panic disorder have lower levels of GABA than the general population (Goddard, et al., 2001).