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“On Paroxysmal Anxiety” by Édouard Brissaud (1890)
In 1890, the French neurologist Édouard Brissaud reported the symptoms of a 34-year-old male inpatient who suffered what he called “paroxysmal anxiety.” The clinical presentation was similar to what would now be classified as “a panic disorder with prominent respiratory symptoms.” Brissaud suggested that this disorder was caused by an abnormal functioning of the autonomic nervous system. On the basis of this hypothesis, he argued for a clearer distinction between anxiety phenomena. Brissaud’s largely unknown descriptions predated, by many decades, the pharmacologic delineation of anxiety syndromes, and his astute observations on the possible neural origins of some forms of panic disorders preceded hypotheses that are still being considered to this day.