Does help-seeking alter the risk for incident psychopathology in adolescents and young adults with and without fearful spells or panic attacks? Findings from a 10-year prospective-longitudinal community study

J Affect Disord. 2014 Dec;169:221-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2014.08.012. Epub 2014 Aug 15.


Background: Although fearful spells (FS) and panic attacks (PA) increase the risk for various mental disorders, few studies have examined whether help-seeking in those with FS/PA attenuates the risk for incident psychopathology.

Methods: A community sample of adolescents and young adults (N=2978, aged 14-24 at baseline) was followed up in up to 3 assessment waves over 10 years. FS, PA, psychopathology, and help-seeking were assessed using the DSM-IV/M-CIDI. Logistic regressions with interaction terms (adjusted for sex and age) were used to test interactions between FS/PA and help-seeking at baseline on predicting incident psychopathology at follow-up. Cases with panic disorder (PD) at baseline were excluded from all analyses.

Results: FS/PA at baseline predicted the onset of any disorder, any anxiety disorder, PD, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and depression at follow-up (Odds Ratios, OR 1.62-5.80). FS/PA and help-seeking at baseline interacted on predicting incident PD (OR=0.09) and depression (OR=0.22) at follow-up in a way that FS/PA only predicted the respective disorders in individuals not seeking help at baseline. In those with FS/PA, a higher number of panic symptoms interacted with help-seeking on predicting incident PD (OR=0.63) in a way that a higher number of panic symptoms only increased the risk for PD in those without help-seeking at baseline.

Limitations: Help-seeking at baseline was not restricted to panic-specific interventions, but included treatment due to other psychological problems as well.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that early help-seeking might modify psychopathology trajectories and prevent incident disorders in high-risk individuals with FS/PA.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Fearful spell; Help-seeking; Panic attack; Prospective-longitudinal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Agoraphobia / psychology
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Panic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Panic Disorder / prevention & control*
  • Panic Disorder / psychology
  • Patient Participation
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Phobic Disorders / prevention & control
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult