Chest pain without coronary artery disease: An exploratory comparison with panic disorder


Recent reports have indicated similarities between patients with persistent chest pain of nonorganic origin and patients with panic disorder. In order to explore this association further, we administered a structured interview and three self-report measures (State-Trait Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory, and SCL90-R) to three subject groups: (1) a sample with persistent chest pain (CP; n=14) who had been screened and found to have normal coronary arteries, (2) a sample of patients with panic disorder (PD; n=14), and (3) a sample of matched normals (n=14). CP patients were considered to be free of coronary artery disease (CAD) following normal cardiac catheterization and/or normal thallium stress tests and were not diagnosed initially with panic disorder. PD patients were diagnosed with a standardized psychiatric interview and were free of organic causes of panic. Using an exploratory data analytic approach, the results indicated that both CP and PD samples reported increased levels of state and trait anxiety (p <.0001), depression (p <.01), and somatization (p <.0001) compared with normals. CP patients differed from PD patients in their less frequent use of anxiolytic medication (p <.01) and lower levels of reported panic anxiety and phobic avoidance (p <.0001). These data suggest that persistent chest pain in the absence of CAD shares some features with panic disorder, yet differs from panic in key ways as well. The results are discussed in light of the role of anxiety in contributing to symptom labeling. © 1989 Plenum Publishing Corporation.

Publication Title

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment