Agoraphobia in adults: incidence and longitudinal relationship with panic

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Theories regarding how spontaneous panic and agoraphobia relate are based mostly on cross-sectional and/or clinic data.


To determine how spontaneous panic and agoraphobia relate longitudinally, and to estimate the incidence rate of and other possible risk factors for first-onset agoraphobia, using a general population cohort.


A sample of 1920 adultsin east Baltimore were assessed in 1981–1982 and the mid-1990s with the Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS). Psychiatrist diagnoses were made in a subset of the sample at follow-up (n=816).


Forty-one new cases of DIS/DSM–III–R agoraphobia were identified (about 2 per 1000 person-years at risk). As expected, baseline DIS/DSM–III panic disorder predicted first incidence of agoraphobia (OR=12, 95% CI 3.2–45), as did younger age, femalegenderandother age, female gender and other phobias. Importantly, baseline agoraphobia without spontaneous panic attacks also predicted first incidence of panic disorder (OR=3.9, 95% CI1.8–8.4). Longitudinal relationships between panic disorder and psychiatrist-confirmed agoraphobia were strong (panic before agoraphobia OR=20, 95% CI 2.3–180; agoraphobia before panic OR=16, 95% CI 3.2–78).


The implied one-way causal relationship between spontaneous panic attacks and agoraphobia in DSM–IV appears incorrect.

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