Depression is not the only factor contributing to a heightened suicide risk among those with panic disorder. Several recent studies suggest that suicide is a real risk when people suffer from panic disorder. It's been assumed that depression is the link - people with panic disorder often suffer from depression. Moreover depression is a huge risk factor in suicide.
However, a new study by doctors at Cleavland State University suggests that other mental health factors are at work when people with panic disorder think of suicide, or attempt it. The overall level of anxiety, a fear of having a panic attack, a dread of certain sensations - like palpitations - and the fear of losing one's sanity are clearly linked to suicide risk. Of course depression is also a potent risk factor - but cannot alone explain the data on panic disorder and suicide.
The survey, of 130 people with panic disorder, showed that 10 per cent had major depression and 30 per cent of this group had suicidal thoughts. Only ten per cent of patients who weren't depressed were a suicide risk. Among people who were suffering from agarophobia - fear of going out - one in four admitted suicidal thoughts. But only six per cent of those who did not have agarophobia - whose panic attacks had some other source - were a suicide risk.
This is a very useful study. It identifies the factors that doctors and patients need to concentrate on if they wish to avoid the tragedy of suicide arising out of panic disorder.