Stressful Life Events Result In Gradual Increase In Panic Symptoms

Stressful life events are difficult for everyone, but they can be especially hard on those who already have an anxiety disorder. A recent study from Brown University has found that people with panic disorder tend to suffer a gradual but steady increase in symptoms in the weeks and months following a stressful event, rather than the immediate panic attack that might be expected.

Principal Investigator Dr. Martin Keller notes that their finding shows that people with panic disorder need to be on the lookout for a longer-term response to stress, and not assume that the absence of an immediate attack means the stressful event has had no effect. "If they have the event and they are not feeling much different then maybe the vigilance on the individual's part decreases somewhat," Keller said. "With the knowledge we have, you may need to stay vigilant for three months or maybe longer. This is something you have to watch for."

The study looked at annual assessments of over 400 adults with panic disorder, analyzing their responses to questions about important life events and anxiety levels. Stressful life events related to work or to friends/family/household resulted in a steady, gradual increase in panic symptoms over at least 12 weeks afterward, while stressful events in other categories, such as deaths or crime/legal, did not affect panic symptoms. Panic symptoms also didn't increase in advance of stressful events, even if the person was aware the event was coming.

Photo: Medical News Today
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