Van Apeldoorn FJ, Van Hout WJ, Timmerman ME, Mersch PP, den Boer JA
J Affect Disord 2013 Sep;150(2):313-9
BACKGROUND: Existing literature on panic disorder (PD) yields no data regarding the differential rates of improvement during Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) or both combined (CBT+SSRI).
METHOD: Patients were randomized to CBT, SSRI or CBT+SSRI which each lasted one year including three months of medication taper. Participating patients kept record of the frequency of panic attacks throughout the full year of treatment. Rate of improvement on panic frequency and the relationship between rate of improvement and baseline agoraphobia (AG) were examined.
RESULTS: A significant decline in frequency of panic attacks was observed for each treatment modality. SSRI and CBT+SSRI were associated with a significant faster rate of improvement as compared to CBT. Gains were maintained after tapering medication. For patients with moderate or severe AG, CBT+SSRI was associated with a more rapid improvement on panic frequency as compared to patients receiving either mono-treatment.
LIMITATIONS: Frequency of panic attacks was not assessed beyond the full year of treatment. Second, only one process variable was used.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients with PD respond well to each treatment as indicated by a significant decline in panic attacks. CBT is associated with a slower rate of improvement as compared to SSRI and CBT+SSRI. Discontinuation of SSRI treatment does not result in a revival of frequency of panic attacks. Our data suggest that for patients without or with only mild AG, SSRI-only will suffice. For patients with moderate or severe AG, the combined CBT+SSRI treatment is recommended.