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Cognitive behavioral therapy most consistent treatment for panic disorders

Researchers said consistently participating in any treatment program improves panic disorder symptoms.

By
Stephen Feller
About 3.3 million American adults have some form of panic disorder. Photo by Lisa S./Shutterstock
About 3.3 million American adults have some form of panic disorder. Photo by Lisa S./Shutterstock

NEW YORK, June 24 (UPI) -- Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT, was found to be the best way to treat panic and anxiety disorders in a study comparing the effectiveness of three psychotherapies.

Researchers found that regardless of which therapy participants were involved in, those who completed an entire treatment program showed improvement from their status at the beginning of the study.

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"Panic disorder is really debilitating — it causes terrible healthcare costs and interference with functioning," Dr. Barbara Milrod, a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, said in a press release. "We conducted this first-ever large panic disorder study to compare therapy types and see if one type of therapy is preferable over another."

Researchers measured the effectiveness of CBT and two other methods of psychotherapy to improve panic disorder symptoms, including anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia, in 201 patients.

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CBT is a structured, results-based psychotherapy that targets negative thoughts and how they impact behavior. The other two therapies were panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy, or PFPP, which helps patients discover unconscious conflicts and emotions behind their symptoms, and applied relaxation training, or ART, a control treatment that focuses on relaxation techniques practiced twice daily at home.

The study showed that CBT and ART made greater improvement than PFPP at the end of therapy programs. However more people dropped out of ART along the way, 41 percent to 25 and 22 for the other two, because "it just didn't help them enough to keep them in the treatment," Milrod said.

Milrod added, however, that the best results were found with patients who stuck with a program, regardless of the one they were in. "If patients stick it out and continue with therapy rather than drop out, they have a far greater chance of seeing positive results or getting better," she said.

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About 3.3 million American adults have some form of panic disorder.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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