Effectiveness of CBT for panic disorder: Treatment outcome in research and community settings

About 37,000 people in BC suffer from panic disorder, a debilitating condition characterized by recurrent panic attacks, intense fear and anxiety. Common symptoms include heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, dizziness, numbness in the extremities, and hot or cold flashes. Panic disorder is also costly to our health care system: two-thirds of patients in Canada have sought psychiatric care, 21 per cent visited emergency departments (sometimes repeatedly), nine per cent saw a cardiologist, and 17 per cent saw a neurologist in an effort to understand their symptoms. Recent lab studies have shown cognitive behaviour therapy significantly decreased the frequency and severity of symptoms and achieved better outcomes than other treatments and medications for panic disorder. In her doctoral research, Kathleen Corcoran is comparing these results to outcomes among patients in two community settings-a community mental health clinic and the Anxiety Disorders Unit at UBC Hospital-to determine whether cognitive behaviour therapy is as effective in treating panic disorder in a less controlled, real-life setting.