In individuals with panic disorder, symptoms increase gradually over time, rather than immediately after a stressful event, finds study.
"We definitely expected the symptoms to get worse over time, but we also thought the symptoms would get worse right away," said Ethan Moitra, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
But even if the events don't seem to trigger an immediate panic attack, said Dr. Martin Keller, professor of psychiatry and human behavior and principal investigator of the research, patients, family members, or their psychiatrists need to keep their guard up.
"If they have the event and they are not feeling much different then maybe the vigilance on the individual's part decreases somewhat," Keller said. "With the knowledge we have, you may need to stay vigilant for three months or maybe longer. This is something you have to watch for."
In their study, lead author Moitra, Keller, and their co-authors also found that panic symptoms did not seem to increase in advance of stressful life events, even if they were predictable, such as a divorce becoming official.
The study was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.