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A Meta-Analysis of the Treatment of Panic Disorder with or without Agoraphobia: A Comparison of Psychopharmacological, Cognitive-Behavioral, and Combination Treatments

VAN BALKOM, ANTON J.L.M. M.D., PH.D.1,2; BAKKER, ABRAHAM M.D.1,2; SPINHOVEN, PHILIP PH.D.3; BLAAUW, BART M.J.W. M.D.1; SMEENK, SUSAN M.D.1; RUESINK, BERNARD M.D.1

The Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease: August 1997 - Volume 185 - Issue 8 - p 510-516
Articles

To compare short-term efficacy of benzodiazepines, antidepressants, psychological panic management, exposure in vivo, and combination treatments in panic disorder with or without agoraphobia (PA), a meta-analysis was conducted. Included were 106 studies, pertaining to 222 treatment conditions, 5,011 patients at pretest and 4,016 at post-test. Pre/post effect sizes Cohen's d were calculated within the treatment conditions for four clinical variables: panic, agoraphobia, depression, and general anxiety. Seven large treatment conditions were used in the main analyses: high-potency benzodiazepines, antidepressants, psychological panic management, exposure in vivo, pill-placebo combined with exposure, antidepressants combined with exposure, and psychological panic management combined with exposure in vivo. First, these treatments were compared with a control condition, consisting of pill-placebo, attention placebo, and waiting list. Next, a comparison was made between the treatments. Antidepressants, psychological panic management, high-potency benzodiazepines, and antidepressants combined with exposure in vivo were superior to the control condition for panic attacks. Exposure in vivo alone was not effective for panic attacks. With regard to agoraphobic avoidance, all seven treatments were superior to the control condition. When comparing the various treatment conditions, no differences concerning panic attacks were found. For agoraphobic avoidance, the combination of antidepressants with exposure in vivo was superior to the other conditions. The combination of antidepressants with exposure in vivo is the most potent short-term treatment of PA.

1 Department of Psychiatry, Vrije Universiteit, Valeriusplein 9, 1075 BG Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

2 Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

3 Department of Psychiatry, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Send requests for reprints to Dr. van Balkom.

© Williams & Wilkins 1997. All Rights Reserved.