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Katharina  Star, Ph.D.

Study: Veterans and Panic Disorder

By August 18, 2011

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Previous studies have suggested that the prevalence of panic disorder may be high among veterans. However, few studies have actually examined the occurrence of panic disorder in this population. Most research and mental health treatment for veterans has focused specifically on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There is concern that the diagnoses of panic disorder is often overlooked in veterans. Veterans with this condition may not be receiving the necessary treatment options. A recent study investigated the prevalence, co-occurring conditions, and healthcare utilization of veterans with panic disorder.

Study participants consisted of total of 884 veterans attending primary care clinics across four Veteran Affairs Medical Centers. Each veteran participated in diagnostic interviews and completed questionnaires concerning both physical and mental health. Additionally, the veterans' charts were reviewed to determine their utilization of health care clinics.

Results indicated that a significant amount of the participating veterans met the diagnostic criteria for panic disorder. Compared to the veterans without panic disorder, these veterans showed higher levels of physical health issues, elevated mental health impairments, and diminished social functioning. Many of veterans diagnosed with panic disorder were determined to also have a co-occurring diagnosis of PTSD and utilized medical clinics more frequently for mental health services.

Given this high prevalence and overall impairment of veterans with panic disorder, medical clinics that serve veterans should recognize the symptoms of panic disorder. This study concluded that health care settings, includingVeteran Affairs Medical Centers, need to be better prepared to assess for and treat veterans with panic disorder.

This study was originally published online in the General Hospital Psychiatry.

Source:

Gros, D.F., Frueh, B.C., Magruder, K. M. Prevalence and Features of Panic Disorder and Comparison to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in VA Primary Care. General Hospital Psychiatry, in-press.


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