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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2003 Jun;26(2):411-33.

Predictors of response in anxiety disorders.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, 401 Quarry Road, Stanford, CA 94305-5723, USA.


Anxiety disorder variables such as duration, severity of illness, and comorbidity with other anxiety or mood disorders appear to identify individuals who are at the greatest risk of treatment nonresponse. Conversely, in accord with clinical experience, shorter periods of illness, less severe illness, being treatment naive, and the absence of comorbidity tend to identify patients who are likely to respond robustly to medication management. Symptom clusters in OCD and PTSD are promising as a means of stratifying those more likely to respond to standard pharmacologic treatment. The presence of hoarding or sexual obsessions seems to presage poorer response in OCD, while the presence of dissociative symptoms in PTSD has been linked to high nonspecific treatment response rates to placebo. Genotyping individuals with respect to genes that are thought to have an important role in the underlying disease process, such as the work with the 5HTTL-PR allele, is exciting and is perhaps the first glimmer of using genotyping to identify treatment strategies or to predict the likelihood or speed of response. The use of neuroimaging as a means of identifying individuals who may respond favorably to pharmacologic or neurosurgical intervention is still in its infancy. As a strategy, it may help combine symptom severity and response variables into a clear neurobiologic vulnerability model of illness. In the future, it may be possible to identify specific treatment interventions for specific patterns of abnormal metabolic rates in certain areas of the brain. However, it should be emphasized that such an approach has not been empirically demonstrated in a rigorous experimental context at this time.

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