Anxiety sensitivity and panic symptomatology: the mediator role of hypochondriacal concerns.
OBJECTIVE The authors tested the hypothesis that a lifetime history of panic-agoraphobic spectrum symptoms predicts a poorer response to depression treatment. METHOD A threshold for clinically meaningful panic-agoraphobic spectrum symptoms was defined by means of receiver operating characteristic curve analysis of total scores on the Structured Clinical Interview for Panic-Agoraphobic Spectrum in a group of 88 outpatients with and without panic disorder. This threshold was then applied to a group of 61 women with recurrent major depression, who completed a self-report version of the same instrument, in order to compare treatment outcomes for patients above and below this clinical threshold. RESULTS Women with high scores (> or =35) on the Panic-Agoraphobic Spectrum Self-Report were less likely than women with low scores (<35) to respond to interpersonal psychotherapy alone (43.5% versus 68.4%, respectively). Women with high scores also took longer (18.1 versus 10.3 weeks) to respond to a sequential treatment paradigm (adding a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor when depression did not remit with interpersonal psychotherapy alone). This effect was only partially accounted for by the higher likelihood that patients with high scores required the addition of antidepressants. Although four domains from the Panic-Agoraphobic Spectrum Self-Report were individually associated with a longer time to remission, only stress sensitivity emerged as significant in multivariate regression analyses. CONCLUSIONS A lifetime burden of panic-agoraphobic spectrum symptoms predicted a poorer response to interpersonal psychotherapy and an 8-week delay in sequential treatment response among women with recurrent depression. These results lend clinical validity to the spectrum construct and highlight the need for alternate psychotherapeutic and pharmacologic strategies to treat depressed patients with panic spectrum features.