Panic Disorder During a Bioterroristic Attack

  • Milan Latas
Conference paper
Part of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Series A: Chemistry and Biology book series (NAPSA)


There are two ways of viewing panic in the context of bioterrorism: (1) Panic as a social-psychological problem which is present in a large group of people who interact, (2) Panic as an individual psychiatric or psychological problem which is present: (a) in persons with previous panic disorder, or (b) in persons without previous panic disorder.

Panic As a Social-Psychological Problem It is well known fact that humans are vulnerable to high intensity emotions like panic. Panic is often considered infectious in the sense that one person’s panic may easily spread to other people around and after that it could be expected that the entire group acts panicky/irrationally very soon.

Panic as an Individual Psychiatric Problem Panic as an individual psychiatric problem is the main focus of the medicine and psychiatry and it is the main focus of this paper. There are several aspects of panic in this context – panic as an individual psychiatric problem. These are (1) panic attack; (2) panic disorder and (3) phobia as the consequence of panic.

Panic Disorder in the Context of Bioterrorism One of the possible targets of this objective is to produce panic in vulnerable subgroups of people with expectation that they will spread it through population. Persons with anxiety disorders, especially persons with panic disorder could be this possible target. In the context of bioterrorism, the question is: what happens after the terrorist attacks with patients with previous panic disorder? The logical hypothesis should be that patients with panic disorder would be more anxious and that they will act with more panic in situation of bioterroristic attack.

But, the results of two research studies, contrary to some expectations, indicate that the presence of real danger does not seem to be associated with higher intensity and frequency of the panic attacks and deterioration in functioning of patients with panic disorder. This means that the presence of real danger does not seem to be associated with deterioration in a functioning of many patients with panic disorder. Mental disorders (depression, suicide, panic attacks) often develop after the war – terrorist act and we could expect the onset of mental problems, not during but after the possible bioterrorist attack.

Panic is a sudden sensation of fear and overwhelming anxiety which is so strong as to dominate people’s behavior and prevent rational and logical thinking of a person.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Belgrade University School of Medicine, Clinic of Psychiatry of Clinical Center of SerbiaBelgradeSerbia

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