German Journal of Psychiatry    ISSN 1455-1033

2000, Vol. 3, Supplement 1, S3

 

The long-term course of panic disorder - an 11-year follow-up

Griengl H, Amering M, Windhaber J, Katschnig H

Department of Psychiatry, Section of Social Psychiatry and Evaluative Research, University Hospital, Vienna, Austria

Background: The purpose of this study was to assess the naturalistic long-term course of panic disorder over a period of 11 years.

Method: 30 DSM-III-R panic disorder patients, who had suffered from panic disorder for 6 years on average and who had taken part in an 8 week multicenter drug trial, were included in the intent-to-follow-up group to be reinterviewed 11 years after the end of the trial. At baseline and at follow-up the same instruments were used to assess frequency of panic attacks, level of phobic avoidance and disabilities. Treatments received during the follow-up period and attempted suicides were assessed with a structured interview. Periods of well-being during the follow-up period were elicited retrospectively with a specifically designed longitudinal chart.

Results: 24 patients could actually be re-interviewed after 11.3 years. While at baseline all patients had suffered from panic attacks and had been severely disabled on a number of measures, 66.7% had no panic attack during the year before follow-up. During the month before follow-up 87.5% had no panic attack, and 54% showed no or only mild phobic avoidance. In the areas of work and family life 90% showed no or only mild disabilities, whereas in the area of social life this percentage was lower (67%). 33% of the patients were completely remitted according to a composite remission criterion.

Conclusions: Panic disorder is not a uniformly chronic and progressing disorder. Over a period of eleven years there is a good chance of recovery from panic attacks and disabilities, and full remission is also possible.