03/28/2012 10:02 am ET Updated Mar 28, 2012

JetBlue Pilot Clayton Osbon Had An In-Air Panic Attack: What Is It?

UPDATED March 28, 5:27 p.m. ET: Clayton Osbon was charged with interfering with the airline crew's instructions, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

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UPDATED March 28, 2:24 p.m. ET: ABC News reported that even though authorities say Obson had a panic attack when he had his meltdown on the plane, the real reason may in fact be more complicated.

ABC News reported:

Clayton Osbon, the pilot who was subdued aboard Jet Blue flight 191 after going into a rage, may have had a toxic reaction to infection, drugs or even an encephalitic event caused by a brain tumor.

Osbon's health is still being examined by officials in Texas.

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The JetBlue pilot who experienced a breakdown while flying from New York to Las Vegas on Tuesday had a panic attack, law enforcement officials told news sources.

ABC News reported that pilot Clayton Osbon, who had been flying commercially for more than 20 years, began flipping switches on the plane in a strange way on that Tuesday flight. His co-pilot locked him out of the cockpit because of the strange behavior, and Osbon then started yelling phrases like "We got Israel, we got Iraq" and "We're gonna get doomed."

Crew members and passengers had to subdue him before the plane made a landing in Amarillo, Texas. Osbon is now under observation at a hospital in Texas, ABC News reported.

USA Today reported that official mental health testing is not a requirement for pilots, though management will get involved if there is some big change in a pilot's personality.

"The mental health side is constant monitoring from your co-workers," Dave Funk, a retired Northwest Airlines captain with Laird & Associates, told USA Today.

However, USA Today did point out that pilots who are under age 40 must have a yearly medical exam (every six months, if over age 40).

According to the American Psychological Association, panic attacks are the primary symptom of panic disorder. They manifest via racing heartbeats, paralyzing fear, lightheadedness, problems with breathing, hot flashes or chills, trembling and "pins and needles" in the fingers or toes. The APA also noted that people going through a panic attack are overcome with a fear that they are about to die or go crazy.

HuffPost blogger Priscilla Warner, co-author of the book The Faith Club., explained what her panic attack felt like:

I was a 15-year-old waitress going about my business when I felt a strange, flickering sensation in the center of my chest. My lungs tightened, my throat closed up, my head started spinning and my heart began to pound.

Panic attacks can happen without warning and from no immediate cause – they can even seem to come out of nowhere, according to the APA. Notable characteristics of a panic attack include the fact that the panic is way more extreme than the circumstance at hand, and it doesn't last for very long (just a few minutes, though they can recur).

The Mayo Clinic reported that panic attacks may occur because of genetics/family history, brain functioning changes or stress. Risk factors can also including having big life changes, a history of abuse or the occurrence of something traumatic.

About one in 75 people may have a panic attack, with the most common times being in adolescence and adulthood, according to the APA.

While panic attacks are a symptom of panic disorder, not everyone who has an attack has the disorder, the Mayo Clinic reported; the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines panic disorder as:

- You have frequent, unexpected panic attacks.

- At least one of your attacks has been followed by one month or more of persistent worry about having another attack; persistent fear of the consequences of an attack, such as losing control, having a heart attack or "going crazy"; or a significant change in your behavior, such as avoiding situations that you think may trigger a panic attack.

- Your panic attacks aren't caused by substance abuse or another mental health condition, such as social phobia or agoraphobia.

Panic disorder is treated with a mixture of different therapies, including psychotherapy (where people are counseled on how to deal with the panic disorder) and cognitive behavioral therapy (where people are counseled how to identify their feelings that lead up to the panic, and change them), WebMD reported. Other treatments include medications and doing relaxation techniques.

WebMD noted that nearly nine in 10 people who do undergo treatment for their panic disorder can be relieved of the condition.

This incident isn't the first in-flight drama involving a crew member.

In 2010, Steven Slater who, also worked for JetBlue, decided he had had enough after an encounter with a passenger, and activated the emergency slide. The Daily Beast reported that he grabbed a couple beers before sliding out of the airplane.

And just earlier this month, an American Airlines flight attendant on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago freaked out and had to be restrained by passengers. Q13 Fox reported that the flight attendant used the PA system to speak incoherently about the plane crashing, bankruptcy, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"She was in a manic-type state," Brad LeClear, one of the passengers on the plane, told Q13 Fox. "I tried to talk her down and calm her down a little bit. She said she was bipolar. We continued to hold her until authorities arrived and when they showed up we helped get the cuffs on."