Background: The chronic course of anxiety disorders and its high burden of disease are partly due to the recurrence of anxiety disorders after remission. However, knowledge about recurrence rates and predictors of recurrence is scarce. This article reports on recurrence rates of anxiety disorders and investigates predictors of recurrence from a broad range of socio-demographic characteristics, illness-related and psychosocial putative predictors.
Methods: Baseline and 2-year follow-up data were derived from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA). Participants who had at least one lifetime anxiety disorder (panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, agoraphobia alone, social phobia or generalized anxiety disorder), but were remitted at baseline (N=429) were included. Recurrence of anxiety disorders during the 2-year follow-up period was assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview, version 2.1.
Results: Recurrence rates among pure and multiple anxiety disorders did not differ significantly and the overall recurrence rate of anxiety disorders was 23.5%. In those recurring, the incidence of a new anxiety disorder was common (32.7%). Disability and anxiety sensitivity remained predictive of recurrence of anxiety disorders in multivariable regression analysis.
Limitations: The included participants had more severe symptoms at baseline than the non-response group and lifetime anxiety diagnoses were assessed, retrospectively.
Conclusions: Recurrence of anxiety disorders is common and clinicians should be aware of the diagnostic instability within anxiety disorders. Disability and anxiety sensitivity are independent predictors of recurrence of anxiety disorders. Altering these predictors in regular cognitive behavioural therapy could contribute to the reduction of recurrence.
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