A latent class approach to the external validation of respiratory and non-respiratory panic subtypes

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The phenotypic variance observed in panic disorder (PD) appears to be best captured by a respiratory and non-respiratory panic subtype. We compared respiratory and non-respiratory panic subtypes across a series of external validators (temporal stability, psychiatric co-morbidity, treatment response) to determine whether subtypes are best conceptualized as differing: (1) only on their symptom profiles with no other differences between them; (2) on a quantitative (i.e. severity) dimension only; or (3) qualitatively from one another.


Data from a large epidemiological survey (National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions) and a clinical trial (Cross-National Collaborative Panic Study) were used. All analytic comparisons were examined within a latent class framework.


High temporal stability of panic subtypes was observed, particularly among females. Respiratory panic was associated with greater odds of lifetime major depression and a range of anxiety disorders as well as increased treatment utilization, but no demographic differences. Treatment outcome data did not suggest that the two PD subtypes were associated with differential response to either imipramine or alprazolam.


These data suggest that respiratory and non-respiratory panic represent valid subtypes along the PD continuum, with the respiratory variant representing a more severe form of the disorder.

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