Psychological treatment of panic: work in progress on outcome, active ingredients, and follow-up.
Margraf J., Barlow DH., Clark DM., Telch MJ.
Initial interest in the causes and treatment of panic disorder was triggered by biological theories and investigators. More recently, however, research on newly developed psychological approaches for panic has advanced our understanding of the disorder and has led to the development of specific treatment programs. Typically, these programs consist of a range of treatment components that more or less directly target panic attacks and the fears and behaviors associated with them. The paper reviews four studies evaluating these programs that have recently been completed or are close to completion in different centers in the United States (Albany, New York; Austin, Texas) and Europe (Oxford, England; Marburg, Germany). Conforming to strict methodological standards, these studies report consistently high success rates and temporal stability of the treatment gains. About 80% or more of the patients receiving combined cognitive-behavioral treatments achieved panic free status as well as strong and clinically significant improvement in general anxiety, panic-related cognitions, depression, and phobic avoidance. Furthermore, these gains were maintained at follow-ups of up to 2 years. The success of these psychological treatments compares favorably with the outcome for the established pharmacological treatments. In addition, the studies provide new insights into the active ingredients that may operate in cognitive-behavioral treatments for panic disorder and show the feasibility of group treatments. Together, these studies underscore the fact that cognitive-behavioral treatments rest on firm experimental evidence that justifies their application in everyday practice as well as continued research into their mechanisms of action.