Response to Missile Attacks on Civilian Targets in Patients With Panic Disorder.
J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60(6):385-388
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Background: The complex interaction that exists between biological and cognitive factors determines the reaction of panic-disorder patients to stressors. The current study was conducted to systematically assess the behavioral effects of a real, life-threatening event on panic-disorder patients.
Method: Sixty-five panic-disorder patients completed structured telephone interviews during the first 4 weeks of the Persian Gulf War. Evaluation included frequency of panic attacks, anxiety levels, and function levels both during and between air raid alarms.
Results: The findings indicate that panic-disorder patients, despite high levels of anxiety, did not demonstrate an increased frequency of panic attacks during the Persian Gulf War. In addition, the majority of patients reported good-to-high levels of functioning during the crisis in both everyday and alarm-related functioning. Grouping of subjects according to proximity to risk or current antipanic treatment did not produce significant differences in the frequency of panic attacks or levels of anxiety.
Conclusion: The findings suggest that vulnerability of patients with panic disorder to a "panic-stricken" response does not increase during real-life stressors. The lack of increased frequency of panic attacks observed under these circumstances provides additional support for the opinion that panic and fear are two distinct entities.