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Depress Anxiety. 1999;10(3):105-11.

Specific phobia 10-16 years after treatment.

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  • 1New York State Psychiatric Institute, Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, USA.


Twenty eight participants, initially treated for specific phobia as part of a comparative treatment study, were evaluated 10 to 16 years (X = 12 years) later. A comprehensive, in-person, semi-structured diagnostic interview was utilized, which also assessed comorbid disorders. Of 21 patients who had been rated as responders (much improved or very much improved) at treatment termination, 13 (62%) had clinically significant avoidance or endurance with dread subsequent to treatment. Among a subgroup of these responders who had been considered completely recovered (n = 11), 5 (45%) had clinically significant symptoms following treatment. None of the seven subjects who had been considered unimproved at treatment termination recovered from phobia symptoms in the intervening years. Positive response to treatment was associated with better long term outcome. Clinical characteristics, such as phobia subtype, age of onset, baseline severity, and lifetime comorbidity of other psychiatric disorders were not associated with long term outcome in this sample. Type of treatment was not associated with long term outcome. Results challenge the notion that recovery from specific phobia following treatment is characterized by complete and enduring cessation of symptoms.

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