The human brain is absolutely amazing. And as much as we’ve learned about it, it remains one incredibly mysterious three-pound mass of tissue and fluid. The brain’s functioning has certainly been a puzzle to me over the many years, as it’s facilitated a long bout with panic disorder, as well as dances with other distressing mental, emotional, and physical phenomena. Lately, I’ve become more and more fascinated with how a panic sufferer’s assorted pathological challenges present and interact. Here are just some of my thoughts.

I was nine-years-old when an episode of derealization struck me like a lightening bolt while I was sitting at a kitchen table with my parents and their friends. I panicked and ran from the scene. During that same timeframe it was often written on my report cards that I was seemingly unable to sit still and would occasionally wander around the classroom. As a junior in college intrusive thoughts entered my airspace. I was walking down the sidewalk in downtown East Lansing, MI. and saw a woman coming toward me pushing a stroller. Out of nowhere I wondered what would happen if I punched her baby right in the face. Wow!

Well, let’s take a shot at labeling these events in an effort to gain some insight. The first event was a panic attack, the second involved inattention and hyperactivity, and the third event was an obsession with a yet to be understood bit of compulsive behavior tossed in. And I can tell you, for sure, these three amigos frequently travel together.

Let’s see if we can find some anatomical and physiological common ground here. Research tells us that the generation of panic attacks is based in the amygdala and other components of the limbic system, which are all located deep within the temporal lobes of the brain. The amygdala has been considered a component of the basal ganglia for decades; however, since it’s not involved in movement the association is fading. Finally, the amygdala works closely with the brain’s thalamus and prefrontal cortices in receiving, analyzing, and responding to incoming internal and external stimuli. The neurotransmitters involved in panic are serotonin, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.

ADHD sufferers have been found to have reduced brain mass in areas of the dorsal prefrontal cortex, located within the prefrontal lobe of both brain cortices. Also noted are reductions in size of the anterior temporal areas of both cortices. The anatomy lesson continues, as increases in grey matter volume in areas of the posterior temporal and inferior parietal cortices have also been detected. Finally, areas of the cerebrum’s anterior cingulate cortex and basal ganglia, as well as portions of the cerebellum, have shown variations in size. Neurotransmitters involved with ADHD are thought to be dopamine and norepinephrine.

When it comes to the brain anatomy involved in obsessions and compulsions, the orbital-prefrontal cortex, caudate nucleus (located within the basal ganglia, by the way), and the thalamus are most often mentioned. The neurotransmitters in the obsession/compulsion mix are believed to be serotonin and dopamine.

Well, as it applies to panic, inattention, hyperactivity, obsessions, and compulsions, there appears to be plenty of common ground in terms of brain anatomy and neurotransmitters. Indeed, there are numerous dots that can be connected. Go ahead, go back and take a look at the article and make your own comparisons. I’m thinking you’ll see the similarities. And I believe these similarities account for my constellation of symptoms and disorders over the years, as well as those of one of our clients.

Not long after we began working with Taylor, our focus turned to his self-obsession and inability to quiet his mind. Yes, Taylor’s mind was very much working against him in a very spirited manner. I shared my history of inattention and obsessive/compulsive issues with him, and guess what? Taylor revealed he’d had some major problems with inattention throughout his elementary and secondary education experience. Isn’t it amazing how, with the right cues, seemingly meaningless information to a mind variance sufferer suddenly comes to the fore and becomes a factor in identification and treatment?

Well, to me, our assorted bits of pathology aren’t pieces from different puzzles that happened to have been thrown on the card table. No, they’re pieces from a massive and complicated puzzle that simply take a longer amount of time to piece together. It’s just all the more evidence that mind variances co-occur and interact. And though, in terms of treatment, we traditionally lean toward the myopic, focusing upon the issue that’s causing the most grief in-the-moment; all pieces of the grand puzzle must be considered. Only then can we maximize insight, identity, education, treatment, and hope.

Over the coming days, take the time to ponder your full constellation of symptoms and potential disorders. I’m telling you it’s a worthwhile exercise and your suppositions and conclusions merit discussion with your “help-team.” Again, the nuances of our mind variances, and their interaction, are amazingly fascinating. Well beyond that, understanding the dynamics will lead to extraordinary peace and calm.

Author's Bio: 

After a winning bout with panic disorder Bill found his life's passion and work. So he earned his counseling credentials and is doing all he can to lend a hand to those having a tough time.

Bill authored a panic attack education and recovery eworkbook entitled, "Panic! ...and Poetic Justice," which is available on his website. And he now has a blog up and running, which is accessible through his website. Lots of good stuff going on and much more to come.