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Am J Med. 1992 Jan 24;92(1A):7S-11S.

Panic disorder: relationship to high medical utilization.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle.


The purpose of this review is to describe the relationship between panic disorder, somatization, functional disability, and high medical utilization. Data from community, primary-care, and specialty studies were reviewed to determine the prevalence of anxiety and panic disorder in these populations. Data from the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study were reviewed to emphasize the effect of panic disorder on health-care utilization and health perception in a community population. Data on the prevalence of panic disorder in primary care and mode of presentation of primary-care patients with panic disorder were also reviewed. Finally, the epidemiologic psychiatric findings from our recent study of distressed high utilizers of primary care were presented. Panic disorder was found to occur in 1-3% of people in the study community and 1.4-8% of primary-care patients. Of people with or without psychiatric disorder, people with panic disorder in the community had the highest risk of having multiple medically unexplained symptoms and of being high utilizers of medical ambulatory services. People with panic disorder in the community compared to both community psychiatric and nonpsychiatric controls tend to perceive themselves as having poor physical health and to be high users of emergency and hospital inpatient services, as well as ambulatory services. Most patients with panic disorder present to their primary-care physician with somatic complaints, especially cardiac (tachycardia, chest pain), gastrointestinal (epigastric pain or irritable bowel syndrome), or neurologic complaints (headaches, dizziness, or presyncope). Patients who were distressed high utilizers of primary care had an extremely high prevalence of current panic disorder (12%) and lifetime panic disorder (30%), which supported the association between panic disorder and high medical utilization found in the Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) Study.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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