Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can really hurt me.
Recently, they have found a specific neurosis associated with a birth trauma: namely obsessive-compulsive disorder. Thus, children with OCD are much more likely to suffer a birth trauma than controls. (J. Adol. Psychopharmacology. 2008, August; 18 -4- 373-9, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2935829/ ). And the question is, why does this reaction get imprinted and lasts so long? Because it is essential for survival that we remember what is dangerous and how to react to it. We need to have the capacity to feel terror and get galvanized to react immediately. Survival is rarely a leisure activity. Part of this is that the secretion of nor-adrenaline affects the amygdala and elements of the brainstem, which are mobilized. We become hyper-alert and ready for action, and this alertness interacts with the memory system to direct our efforts.
By the way, the same has been found for bi-polar disorder. Not a surprise, and I have written about this for 45 years.
It turns out that there are signs of oncoming panic. (Scientific American, Aug. 3, 2011) The subject is usually not aware of dizziness, trembling, agitation, that form the precursor of panic attacks. It is as though the pain/terror is on the rise and we are not aware of it until it is full-blown. Because the terror is set down so early, in the beginning months of gestation and imprinted so deep in the brain, we have no idea where it comes from. Terror surely begins its life in the brainstem and in archaic parts of the limbic system (amygdala). It is only when the gates falter and the terror bursts through that we become aware of it. Being aware is only half the job; then the work begins……getting to the source and reliving it.