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Am J Psychiatry. 1994 Jun;151(6):871-5.

Ataque de nervios and panic disorder.

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Hispanic Anxiety Disorders Clinic, New York State Psychiatric Institute, NY 10032.



Ataque de nervios ("attack of nerves") is an illness category used frequently by Hispanic individuals to describe one or more particular symptom complexes. A review of the literature on ataque suggested some overlap with panic disorder. This study investigated the overlap with panic disorder as well as other DSM-III-R axis I disorders.


Hispanic subjects seeking treatment at an anxiety disorders clinic (N = 156) were assessed with a specially designed questionnaire for self-report of ataque de nervios and panic symptoms and with structured or semistructured psychiatric interviews for axis I disorders.


Seventy percent of the subjects reported at least one ataque de nervios; 80% of these were female, whereas 57% of the group without these attacks were female. There were no differences in DSM-III-R diagnoses between the groups with and without ataque de nervios. Ataque was frequently associated with one or more anxiety and affective disorders, including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, recurrent major depression, and anxiety not otherwise specified. Of the 45 subjects with both ataque de nervios and primary panic disorder, 80% appeared to have labeled panic disorder as ataque. Ataque de nervios was associated with panic symptoms even in subjects without panic disorder, but the self-reporting of ataque conveyed additional clinical information about the subjects with panic disorder. Ataque de nervios was similar in frequency and symptoms among subjects of Dominican and Puerto Rican origin.


Ataque de nervios overlaps with panic disorder but is a more inclusive construct. Further study of its interrelation with axis I disorders is needed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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