PANIC DISORDER AND AGORAPHOBIA: AN OVERVIEW AND COMMENTARY ON DSM-5 CHANGES
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The recently published DSM-5 contains a number of changes pertinent to panic disorder and agoraphobia. These changes include separation of panic disorder and agoraphobia into separate diagnoses, the addition of criteria and guidelines for distinguishing agoraphobia from specific phobia, the addition of a 6-month duration requirement for agoraphobia, the addition of panic attacks as a specifier to any DSM-5 diagnosis, changes to descriptors of panic attack types, as well as various changes to the descriptive text. It is crucial that clinicians and researchers working with individuals presenting with panic attacks and panic-like symptoms understand these changes. The purpose of the current paper is to provide a summary of the main changes, to critique the changes in the context of available empirical evidence, and to highlight clinical implications and potential impact on mental health service utilization. Several of the changes have the potential to improve access to evidence-based treatment; yet, although certain changes appear justified in that they were based on converging evidence from different empirical sources, other changes appear questionable, at least based on the information presented in the DSM-5 text and related publications. Ongoing research of DSM-5 panic disorder and agoraphobia as well as application of the new diagnostic criteria in clinical contexts is needed to further inform the strengths and limitations of DSM-5 conceptualizations of panic disorder and agoraphobia.
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