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Research

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Publication details for Professor Felicity Callard

Callard, F. (2016). The Intimate Geographies of Panic Disorder: Parsing Anxiety through Psychopharmacological Dissection. Osiris 31(1): 203-226.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

The category of panic disorder was significantly indebted to early psychopharmacological experiments (in the late 1950s and early 1960s) by the psychiatrist Donald Klein, in collaboration with Max Fink. Klein’s technique of “psychopharmacological dissection” underpinned his transformation of clinical accounts of anxiety and was central in effecting the shift from agoraphobic anxiety (with its spatial imaginary of city squares and streets) to panic. This technique disaggregated the previously unitary affect of anxiety—as advanced in psychoanalytic accounts—into two physiological and phenomenological kinds. “Psychopharmacological dissection” depended on particular modes of clinical observation to assess drug action and to interpret patient behavior. The “intimate geographies” out of which panic disorder emerged comprised both the socio-spatial dynamics of observation on the psychiatric ward and Klein’s use of John Bowlby’s model of separation anxiety—as it played out between the dyad of infant and mother—to interpret his adult patients’ affectively disordered behavior. This essay, in offering a historical geography of mid-twentieth-century anxiety and panic, emphasizes the importance of socio-spatial setting in understanding how clinical and scientific experimentation opens up new ways in which affects can be expressed, shaped, observed, and understood.