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J Nerv Ment Dis. 1992 Jun;180(6):369-79.

Generalized anxiety disorder vs. panic disorder. Distinguishing characteristics and patterns of comorbidity.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa, College of Medicine, Iowa City.


In order to examine the validity of the distinction between generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder (PD) we compared 41 subjects with GAD and 71 subjects with PD. The GAD subjects had never had panic attacks. In contrast to the symptom profile in PD subjects suggestive of autonomic hyperactivity, GAD subjects had a symptom pattern indicative of central nervous system hyperarousal. Also, subjects with GAD had an earlier, more gradual onset of illness. In terms of coexisting syndromes, GAD subjects more often had simple phobias, whereas PD subjects more commonly reported depersonalization and agoraphobia. GAD subjects more frequently had first-degree relatives with GAD, whereas PD subjects more frequently had relatives with PD. A variety of measures indicated that our GAD subjects had a milder illness than those with PD. Also, fewer GAD subjects gave histories of major depression than did PD subjects. Among GAD subjects, coexisting major depression was associated with simple phobia and thyroid disorders and among PD subjects, comorbid depression was associated with social phobia and hypertension. Our findings indicate that the separation of GAD from PD is a valid one. They also indicate that, within disorders, unique patterns of comorbidity may exist that are important both clinically and theoretically.

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