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Which clinical factors delay proper treatment in panic disorder? A cross-sectional multicentric study.

AIM: The aim of the present study was to identify clinical and socio-demographic factors associated with duration of untreated illness (DUI) in patients affected by panic disorder (PD).

METHODS: Data were collected from patients' medical records (N = 157) of two mental health services respectively located in Milan and in Monza (Italy). Correlation analyses and analysis of variance (ANOVAs) were run to analyse the relation between DUI and quantitative/qualitative variables respectively. Statistically significant variables in uni- variate analyses were then inserted in a linear multivariable regression model (backward procedure).

RESULTS: Mean DUI was 27.33 (±50.56) months. Patients with an earlier age at onset (r = -0.270; p < .01), a longer duration of illness (r = 0.483; p < .01) and who received a lifetime psychotherapy (F = 6.86; p = .01) had a longer DUI. The final global model showed that a longer DUI was associated with pre-onset poly-substance misuse (p = .05) and a longer duration of illness (p < .01).

CONCLUSION: The results of our study showed that a longer DUI was predicted by clinical factors such as the presence of a pre-onset poly-substance use disorder and that delayed proper treatment can lead to a chronicization of PD, as indicated by a longer duration of illness. Further studies are needed to in-depth investigate the role of DUI in influencing the course and outcome of anxiety disorders, including PD.

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