Precipitating events, locations and reactions associated with initial unexpected panic attacks
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This study examined the phenomenology of the initial panic attack in 85 panic disorder patients with or without agoraphobia. Patients were divided into minimal and extensive avoiders and three domains were assessed: precipitating factors, location of initial panic, and reaction to the panic. No apparent precipitating factor could be identified in approx 40% of the patients. The most common precipitants were injury/illness and interpersonal conflict. Extensive avoiders were more likely to have experienced the initial panic in classic agoraphobic situations. Public transportation was the most common location for the total sample. In reaction to the panic, minimal avoiders were more likely to have gone to a hospital emergency room (ER) whereas extensive avoiders were more likely to have done nothing in terms of help-seeking. Many patients with either minimal or extensive avoidance avoided the locations where the initial panic occurred, suggesting that circumscribed avoidance does not always generalize.
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