March 7, 2007 / 8:27 PM / 12 years ago

Psychoanalysis effective for panic disorder

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The findings from a clinical trial indicate that psychoanalytic therapy can be particularly effective for people suffering from panic disorder. Relaxation training is also helpful but it has a lower success rate.

Panic disorder is marked by repeated “attacks” of intense fear or anxiousness that come out of nowhere, with physical symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness and shortness of breath. The disorder often goes hand-in-hand with agoraphobia, a fear of being trapped in situations that are out of one’s control; people with the condition typically avoid public places and crowds.

Dr. Barbara Milrod of Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, and colleagues randomly assigned 49 adults with panic disorder to receive panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy or less specific relaxation training. The participants underwent twice-weekly sessions for 12 weeks.

At the end of treatment, independent evaluators found the psychotherapy group to have a significantly greater reduction in the severity of panic symptoms than did the relaxation group.

Using one standard assessment scale, the response rate at the end of treatment was 73 percent in the psychotherapy group compared with 39 percent in the relaxation group, the investigators report in the American Journal of Psychiatry

There were similar findings for psychosocial functioning.

“This study demonstrated the efficacy of a brief psychoanalytic psychotherapy for panic disorder with or without agoraphobia,” Milrod told Reuters Health.

With increasing concerns about side effects from medications commonly for panic disorder, “it is good news that patients can choose from more than one time-limited psychotherapy for treatment of panic,” she added.

SOURCE: American Journal of Psychiatry, February 2007.

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