Anxiety symptom severity and functional recovery or relapse

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BACKGROUNDAnxiety disorders are associated with significant disability. There is growing interest in the question of whether pharmacotherapy that effectively reduces symptoms can also restore function. Recovery could potentially be defined as a lack of disability, with an associated reduction in symptom severity. Conversely, relapse could potentially be defined in terms of either increased disability or increased symptoms.METHODSWe analyzed a database of randomized controlled trials of escitalopram in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD), focusing on the relationship between disorder-specific severity scales, and the Sheehan Disability Scale (SDS). In short-term studies, cut-points on symptom scales were derived for recovered function. In relapse prevention studies, the effects of defining relapse in terms of increased disability scores were examined.RESULTSIn GAD and SAD, there is a close correlation between primary symptom severity scales and the SDS, both in the short term and during relapse prevention. Thus, functional recovery is associated with relatively low symptom severity scores, and rates of relapse—defined in terms of increased disability—are significantly lower on escitalopram than on placebo.CONCLUSIONSThese data indicate that recovery and relapse can potentially be defined either in terms of symptom severity or functioning. Thus, the concept of functional recovery and relapse may be useful in defining treatment outcomes. Longer-term treatment of anxiety disorders is needed to ensure functional recovery.

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