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Environmental factors related to the outcome of panic disorder. A seven-year follow-up study.

The purpose of this study was to examine factors related to the outcome of naturalistically treated panic disorder. In order to achieve this we followed up 69 patients 7 years after they had presented at a psychiatric clinic. At follow-up, the patients were generally doing well despite persisting symptoms. Patients who were more severely ill at the time of initial assessment had a worse outcome. These patients had more severe panic and agoraphobic symptoms, had illnesses of longer duration, and more often had histories of major depression. Among the developmental variables examined, separation from a parent by death or divorce was strongly related to poor outcome. Other factors associated with poor outcome included high interpersonal sensitivity, low social class, and unmarried marital status. The findings show that, for this chronic illness, measures of severity and chronicity predict more severe and persisting symptoms. They also indicate that outcome is importantly related to the social environment in which the illness develops and with which it interacts.

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