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The Zurich study. XX. Social phobia and agoraphobia.

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Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich, Research Department, Switzerland.


The problems in association with agoraphobia and social phobia were examined in an 11-year prospective longitudinal study of a Swiss cohort of young adults. The weighted prevalence rates according to DSM-III were 2.9% for agoraphobia and 3.8% for social phobia. Although the problem of agoraphobia was greater in females, an equal sex ratio was observed for social phobia. There was a significant degree of comorbidity between the two subtypes of phobia, with females exhibiting a significantly greater frequency of co-occurrence of both disorders than males. The course of the two disorders was quite similar. In general, subjects with both disorders reported a more severe course. Assessment of comorbidity of phobias and other disorders revealed that agoraphobia was most significantly associated with extended neurasthenia, sexual problems, and the consumption of cannabis. On the other hand, social phobia was associated with other disorders than agoraphobia, with the strongest associations emerging for simple phobia, extended insomnia, and alcohol abuse. These findings support the validity of the distinction between different subtypes of phobia. The longitudinal analysis revealed that also phobia in general was not stable at the diagnostic level phobic symptoms were quite persistent across time.

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