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Symptom Attributions Across the Menstrual Cycle in Women with Panic Disorder

Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy
Emily A. P. Haigh, Julia R. Craner, Sandra T. Sigmon, K. Lira Yoon, Geoffrey L. Thorpe


Women with panic disorder are likely to experience greater menstrual-specific symptoms (e.g., headaches, cramps) as well as more panic/anxiety-related symptoms (e.g., dizziness, faintness, chest pain, heart pounding), and may be more likely to experience these symptoms during the premenstrual phase. This study examines the attributions women make about the somatic and affective symptoms they experience during the menstrual cycle. Using a 30-day prospective design, women with and without panic disorder monitored physical and affective symptoms. Participants reported on severity of various symptoms and a primary cause for each symptom (menstrual cycle-related, panic/anxiety related, stress-related, health-related). Women with panic disorder reported more panic attacks during the premenstrual phase compared to other cycle phases. They also reported more severe affective and panic symptoms during the premenstrual phase compared to other phases, but did not significantly differ from the comparison group in menstrual symptom severity across the three cycle phases. Although women with panic disorder attributed more panic/anxiety-related causes for their symptoms across the menstrual cycle, they were able to discriminate between panic/anxiety causes and menstrual cycle-related causes. Women with panic disorder may benefit for therapy that focuses on their exacerbation of panic symptoms during the premenstrual phase.

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