Panic attacks in the community. Social morbidity and health care utilization.

Abstract

This article focuses on social morbidity and health care utilization in persons with panic attacks not meeting full diagnostic criteria for panic disorder. The findings are based on data from a random sample of over 18,000 adults drawn from five US communities. Panic attacks not meeting full criteria for panic disorder have a relatively high lifetime prevalence (3.6% of the adult population). Persons with panic attacks had impairment in perceived physical and emotional health, and in occupational and financial functioning, increased use of health care facilities, emergency departments, and psychoactive drugs. Persons with panic attacks were intermediate in severity between those with panic disorder and those with other psychiatric disorders. The findings could not be explained by comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders. We conclude that panic attacks have clinical significance and are associated with substantial morbidity.

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