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Did panic lead to JetBlue pilot's mid-air meltdown?

Posted Apr 11 2012 3:42pm

In a word, no. According to a CBS News story
Initial reports indicated the pilot may have experienced a panic attack, but it was not, according to Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chief of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital - Columbia University Medical Center.

"Panic attacks are a known diagnostic entity," he said. "It's called panic disorder and is associated with anxiety with a lot of physical symptoms associated. What the pilot suffered from was not a panic attack. That's the first word put out, but the description of his behavior, background and history are not consistent with that."
Great. Another example of panic being misdiagnosed as madness. Panic disorder can be disabling, and while you're in the midst of a panic attack you can certainly misinterpret reality, but panic doesn't result in a break with reality. You might experience the sights and sounds of a traffic jam as an existential threat, but you still see and hear the traffic jam. You're misinterpreting it as being somehow fearsome, but you're not hallucinating or being told what to do by voices in your head. There's a difference.

We may have come a long way , but apparently we still have a way to go. At least nowadays, we get to see this kind of clarifying story in addition to the initial reckless diagnosis.

P.S. Enjoy the clip from Airplane!

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