We have previously found decreased standard deviations and mean consecutive differences of R-R intervals in panic disorder patients in standing posture, compared with control subjects. In the present study, we used spectral analysis of heart rate variability to examine autonomic function in 21 panic disorder patients and 21 normal control subjects. Patients had a significantly lower standard deviation of heart rate in supine as well as standing postures. Absolute low frequency power (0.01-0.05 Hz) was also significantly lower in panic disorder patients in standing postures. Upon standing, the panic disorder patients had significantly higher relative mid-frequency power (0.07-0.15 Hz). During a standing deep-breathing condition at six breaths per minute, the patients had a significantly decreased absolute and relative mid-frequency (0.07-0.15 Hz) power compared with control subjects. These findings suggest a decrease in cholinergic and a relative increase in adrenergic responsiveness in panic disorder patients compared with control subjects.