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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health