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Antidepressant Side Effects Worse for People With Panic Disorder

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Depressed people that take antidepressants are more likely to suffer from the side effects of that drug class if they also have panic disorder.

A new study examined data from 808 people with chronic depression that were prescribed an antidepressant. About 10.5% of the people also had panic disorder.

Overall, about 9 out of 10 participants reported at least 1 side effect during the 12-week study duration. However, those with depression and panic disorder were more likely than those with only depression to self-report gastrointestinal (47% vs. 32%), cardiovascular (26% vs. 14%), neurological (59% vs. 33%), and genital/urinary side effects (24% vs. 8%).

Participants with co-occurring panic disorder were also more likely to report a worsening of their symptoms of depression over 12 weeks if they reported multiple side effects, researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

“Because [patients with panic disorder] 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 Stewart Shankman, MD, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Illinois-Chicago and the main author of the paper. “So it does make sense that these tuned-in patients report more physiological side effects with antidepressant treatment.”

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