The relationship between agoraphobia symptoms and panic disorder in a non-clinical sample of adolescents
Background. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the clinical correlates of agoraphobic fear and avoidance and panic disorder in a non-clinical sample of adolescents.
Method. In a sample of 2365 high school students, combined data from a questionnaire and a structured clinical interview were used to classify subjects with agoraphobic fear and avoidance. Panic symptoms, major depression, childhood separation anxiety disorder, anxiety sensitivity and negative affectivity were also assessed.
Results. Fifteen subjects met study criteria for agoraphobic fear and avoidance in the past year. Only three (20%) of those with agoraphobia symptoms reported histories of panic attacks and there was no overlap between those with agoraphobic fear and avoidance and the 12 subjects who met DSM-III-R criteria for panic disorder. However, subjects with agoraphobia symptoms and those with panic disorder reported similar levels of anxiety sensitivity and negative affectivity. Childhood separation anxiety disorder was more common among those with agoraphobic fear and avoidance compared to those without.
Conclusion. Agoraphobic avoidance is rare in non-clinical samples of adolescents and usually not associated with panic attacks. However, adolescents with agoraphobia symptoms and those with panic disorder have similar clinical correlates consistent with a panic/agoraphobia spectrum model.
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