Autumn 2001 / Leading Edge
Cause for Panic?

Multiple chemical sensitivity may be linked to panic disorder


Multiple chemical sensitivity, a condition that can be debilitating for those who have it and frustrating for doctors trying to treat it, may be genetically linked to panic disorder. Now called idiopathic environmental intolerance, or IEI, the illness produces a variety of symptoms in people when they are exposed to common chemicals and pollutants. Some of these symptoms – such as chest tightness, breathlessness and palpitations – also characterize panic disorder, and researchers have questioned the relationship between the two conditions. Building on the 1999 discovery of an association between a variation of a gene called CCK-BR and panic disorder, Karen Binkley, assistant professor in the department of medicine, examined this gene in people with and without IEI. Forty per cent of IEI sufferers had the genetic variation, compared with only nine per cent of those in the control group. “These results suggest that panic disorder and IEI may share an underlying neurogenetic basis, which could account for the similarity in symptoms and provide a basis for treatment,” says Binkley, lead author. Funding for the study came in part from the Ontario Mental Health Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


Reader Comments

# 1
Posted by K on December 18th, 2016 @ 4:14 pm

I don’t necessarily disagree with this research or the theory however I would use discretion in attributing all Multiple Chemical Sensitivity to Panic Disorder. I know other people have mentioned the panic could be the result of what is physically happening when exposed to perfumes or other chemicals rather than the other way around.

I have seen Dr. Binkley and I was almost relieved. I thought, “Okay, so panic is what is causing the problem. With more therapy and desensitization, this doesn’t have to be a lifelong problem.” Well, even with therapy and proper desensitization techniques, I have ended up in the hospital more than once with my throat closing and trouble breathing and hives. I have been sent home on prednisone for a number of days with doctors speaking sternly to me that I should have used my Epipen sooner.

I have found out through dermatological testing that I am allergic to a number of other chemicals that were causing severe skin reactions — several of which are heavily scented and used in cleaning products etc. so no surprise there. My point is that I was told it was psychological and now I don’t know what to think.

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