The relationship of agoraphobia and panic in a community sample of adolescents and young adults

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1998 Nov;55(11):1017-24. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.55.11.1017.


Background: Data are presented on the prevalence of DSM-IV panic and agoraphobia in a community sample of adolescents and young adults in Munich, Germany.

Methods: A total of 3021 respondents aged 14 to 24 years were assessed with a revised version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). Respondents classified as having agoraphobia without panic were subtyped by number of agoraphobic trigger situations and subjected to a clinical review.

Results: Lifetime prevalence of DSM-IV agoraphobia in the revised CIDI was higher (8.5%) than that of panic attack (4.3%) or panic disorder with (0.8%) or without (0.8%) agoraphobia. Marked differences in symptomatology, course, and associated impairments between panic disorder and agoraphobia were found. Most patients with agoraphobia reported neither full nor limited attacks or uncued paniclike experiences. Clinical review revealed that many respondents classified by the CIDI as having agoraphobia actually have specific phobia, resulting in a corrected agoraphobia prevalence of 3.5%. Number of agoraphobia trigger situations was identified as a useful way of differentiating patients with true agoraphobia from those with simple phobia. Even after correcting for overdiagnosis, however, the majority of respondents with confirmed agoraphobia were found not to have a prior history of panic.

Conclusions: The results call into question the assumed key pathogenic role of panic attacks in the onset of agoraphobia. Consistent with findings that agoraphobia without panic is rarely seen in clinical settings, we find that such patients seldom seek professional treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Age of Onset
  • Agoraphobia / diagnosis
  • Agoraphobia / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Panic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Panic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Terminology as Topic