Panic disorder and gastrointestinal symptoms: findings from the NIMH Epidemiologic Catchment Area project

Am J Psychiatry. 1994 Jan;151(1):64-70. doi: 10.1176/ajp.151.1.64.


Objective: Clinical experience and recent reports suggest that there is a high prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with panic disorder and that there is a high prevalence of panic disorder in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, a functional gastrointestinal disorder. To assess gastrointestinal symptoms in a nonpatient, community-based sample, the authors surveyed the prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in individuals with panic disorder and other or no psychiatric disorders obtained in a national community survey.

Method: Subjects were 13,537 respondents at four sites of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Epidemiological Catchment Area project. DSM-III diagnoses were determined by using the NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS). Gastrointestinal symptoms were assessed from the somatization disorder section of the DIS.

Results: Individuals with panic disorder had a significantly higher rate of endorsing gastrointestinal symptoms, including those typically associated with irritable bowel syndrome, than those with other or no psychiatric diagnosis.

Conclusions: Findings suggest a diagnostic overlap between panic disorder and irritable bowel syndrome, with similar demographic and clinical characteristics of patients. Limitations of the study are discussed in terms of medical assessment and self-report inventories. Practical and theoretical implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Catchment Area, Health
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / diagnosis*
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.)
  • Panic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Panic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Personality Inventory
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • United States / epidemiology