Semiology and subtyping of panic disorders

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To date, the quantitative psychopathology of panic disorder (PD) has been less well studied than that of other psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or major depression. The aim of the present study was to assess the frequency and factorial grouping of symptoms in a naturalistic sample of PD patients. A total of 274 consecutive cases of PD who contacted an out-patient clinic in Barcelona, Spain were assessed by two experienced interviewers. The assessment instruments included the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-III-R Upjohn version (SCID-UP-R) and an inventory of panic attack symptoms based on DSM-III-R. Of the patients who presented at the unit during the assessment period, 8.5% presented with PD. Palpitations, shortness of breath, fear of dying and dizziness were the most frequent and intense symptoms reported by the PD patients. Principal-component analysis revealed four factors which accounted for 57% of the variance, including 'cardiorespiratory' (26.1%) and 'vestibular' (15.1%) factors, and two additional factors with mixed symptoms. The frequency of presentation of symptoms was similar to that reported in other studies. However, some discrepancies were observed that may be attributed to transcultural differences as well as to terminological problems and the range of symptoms assessed. These factors may also explain some of the differences found in factor analysis groupings in previous studies. Our findings support the symptom subtyping of PD.

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