Panic Attacks: Biology or Psychology?

Episode 39 38m


We are living in an age of anxiety; and we know that stress wreaks havoc on our health in so many ways, physiologically, emotionally, and mentally. For many people of all ages, stress can lead to anxiety and debilitating panic attacks. While conventional medicine typically treats anxiety and panic attacks as a diagnosis, Functional Medicine views anxiety and panic attacks as symptoms and seeks to get to the root cause underlying these issues.

In this episode, Dr. Hyman sits down with Dr. George Papaicolaou to discuss the Functional Medicine approach to treating panic attacks. They explore the range of physiological considerations they explore when treating patients who are experiencing panic attacks, as well as how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma can be treated to reduce anxiety and eliminate panic attacks.

George Papanicolaou is a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and is Board Certified in Family Medicine from Abington Memorial Hospital. He is also an Institute for Functional Medicine Practitioner. Upon graduation from his residency he joined the Indian Health Service. He worked on the Navajo reservation for 4 years at the Chinle Comprehensive Medical Facility where he served as the Outpatient Department Coordinator. In 2000, he founded Cornerstone Family Practice in Rowley, MA. He practiced with a philosophy centered on personal relationships and treating the whole person, not just not the disease. He called that philosophy “Whole Life Wellness”. Over time as the healthcare system made it harder for patients to receive this kind of personal care Dr. Papanicolaou decided a change was needed. He began training in Functional Medicine through the Institute of Functional Medicine. In 2015, he established Cornerstone Personal Health – a practice dedicated entirely to Functional Medicine. Dr. Papanicolaou to join The UltraWellness Center in 2017.

In this modern world we place too much value on staying busy and deprioritizing sleep, which is why Dr. Hyman created his first ever Master Class. It guides you through the most important steps to getting better sleep, starting today. Get free access to Dr. Hyman’s Sleep Master Class at

In this conversation, Dr. Hyman and Dr. Papanicolaou discuss:

  • What are anxiety and panic?
  • How conventional medicine typically treats anxiety and panic
  • Patient cases they have treated
  • How diet, hormone and blood sugar levels, nutrient deficiencies, gut issues, inflammation, and other physiological issues can lead to anxiety and panic attacks
  • Foods and supplements to reduce anxiety
  • The important role of sleep, exercise, and meditation in reducing anxiety and panic attacks
  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma
  • Emerging therapies for treating anxiety and PTSD, including CBD, psilocybin, and EMDR

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    Ep. 39 - Panic Attacks: Biology or Psychology?