Objective: Patients with panic symptoms are heavy users of the health care system, although many do not seek care specifically for those symptoms. This study documents utilization of various sources of health care of subjects with panic symptoms, including those who met criteria for panic disorder and those with infrequent panic, distinguishing between use specifically for panic symptoms and use for reasons not related to panic.
Methods: This community-based sample, predominantly Mexican American and female, included 97 subjects with panic symptoms and 97 matched control subjects with no panic symptoms. Data were collected on two-month utilization of various sources of health care both within and outside the mainstream health care system, barriers to access to care, and levels of medical insurance coverage.
Results: Subjects with panic symptoms had higher utilization rates for the services of psychiatrists and psychologists and for ambulance services than control subjects. Subjects who met criteria for panic disorder and who sought care specifically for panic symptoms generally accounted for the differences between the group with panic symptoms and the control group. The two groups differed little in barriers to access, but the control group reported that their medical insurance covered more types of services.
Conclusions: Compared with control subjects, subjects with panic symptoms reported higher rates of health care utilization despite having less insurance coverage and experiencing similar barriers to access. The higher rate was due to increased utilization of health care by subjects who met criteria for panic disorder and to help seeking specifically for symptoms of panic.