Frequent and infrequent panic:. A comparison of cognitive and autonomic reactivity


Ten subjects with Panic Disorder (frequent panic attacks) and ten subjects with infrequent panic attacks were assessed with four two-minute performance tasks: neutral imagery, hospitalization imagery, signal detection, and paced arithmetic. Trapezious EMG, galvanic skin conductance, and heart rate were monitored continuously; following each stimulus, measures of thought-listing and panic symptom distress were taken. Results reveal greater physiological reactivity (EMG and skin conductance) during paced arithmetic in the infrequent panic sample, while the frequent panic sample demonstrated greater reactivity on these measures during neutral and hospitalization imagery. Both groups reported a high frequency of thoughts concerning performance quality, the experimental tasks, and affective states other than anxiety, particularly dysphoria on the thought-listing measure. The infrequent panic sample appeared more aware of panic-related autonomic sensations, relative to the frequent panic sample, as indicated by symptom ratings. Implications for current accounts of cognitive factors in panic are discussed. © 1987.

Publication Title

Journal of Anxiety Disorders