Antidepressants come with a list of possible side effects, but new research has found that patients who also suffer from panic disorder experience significantly more of these side effects than patients without the condition.
The study, which is now published online in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, revealed that patients with depression and panic disorder were more likely than those with only depression to suffer from a number of physical and mental side effects from antidepressant medications. According to the researchers, the reason for this is because individuals with panic disorder are especially sensitive to changes in their bodies, a trait called interoceptive awareness.
"Because these patients experience panic attacks — which are sudden, out-of-nowhere symptoms that include heart racing, shortness of breath, and feeling like you're going to die — they are acutely attuned to changes in their bodies that may signal another panic attack coming on,” said lead study author Stewart Shankman, in a recent statement. So it does make sense that these tuned-in patients report more physiological side effects with antidepressant treatment."
The results are based off the self-reported answers from 808 patients with chronic depression, 85 of which also had panic disorder. Results showed gastrointestinal (47 percent vs. 32 percent), cardiovascular (26 percent vs. 14 percent), neurological (59 percent vs. 33 percent), and genitourinary side effects (24 percent vs. 8 percent) for those with panic disorder versus those who didn't have the disorder, the press release reported. In addition, participants with co-occurring panic disorder were also more likely to report a worsening of their depressive symptoms over the 12 weeks if they reported multiple side effects.
However, panic disorder was not associated with an increase in all types of side effects commonly reported by antidepressant patients, including eye or ear issues, or dermatological, sleep or sexual functioning side effects.
Panic disorder is a mental health condition where individuals have sudden and repeated attacks of fear, called panic attacks, which usually last for several minutes or longer. According to the National Institutes of Health, these can also cause a strong physical sensation that many describe as feeling similar to a heart attack.
The researchers hope these results will help remind doctors to do a thorough assessment of their depressed patients with panic disorder in order to ensure they get the best treatment possible.
Source: Shankman SA, Gorka SM, Katz AC, et al. Side Effects to Antidepressant Treatment in Patients With Depression and Comorbid Panic Disorder. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2017