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CNS Spectr. 2003 Aug;8(8 Suppl 1):17-30.

WCA recommendations for the long-term treatment of panic disorder.

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  • 1Division of Psychiatry, Huddinge University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.


What are the symptoms of panic disorder and how is the disorder most effectively treated? One of the most commonly encountered anxiety disorders in the primary care setting, panic disorder is a chronic and debilitating illness. The core symptoms are recurrent panic attacks coupled with anticipatory anxiety and phobic avoidance, which together impair the patient's professional, social, and familial functioning. Patients with panic disorder have medically unexplained symptoms that lead to overutilization of healthcare services. Panic disorder is often comorbid with agoraphobia and major depression, and patients may be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and, possibly, suicide. Research into the optimal treatment of this disorder has been undertaken in the past 2 decades, and numerous randomized, controlled trials have been published. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have emerged as the most favorable treatment, as they have a beneficial side-effect profile, are relatively safe (even if taken in overdose), and do not produce physical dependency. High-potency benzodiazepines, reversible monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and tricyclic antidepressants have also shown antipanic efficacy. In addition, cognitive-behavioral therapy has demonstrated efficacy in the acute and long-term treatment of panic disorder. An integrated treatment approach that combines pharmacotherapy with cognitive-behavioral therapy may provide the best treatment. Long-term efficacy and ease of use are important considerations in treatment selection, as maintenance treatment is recommended for at least 12-24 months, and in some cases, indefinitely.

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