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Attentional Fixation in Panic Disorder

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According to Beck's (1988) clinical observations, patients with panic disorder describe a fixation on their distressing physical and psychological symptoms and an inability to access corrective information during panic attacks. The present study sought to evaluate empirically the notion that attentional fixation is characteristic of these patients. A subset of panic patients participating in 3 cognitive therapy clinical trials completed the Attentional Fixation Questionnaire (AFQ) at intake, during treatment and at termination. The AFQ had adequate internal consistency at all time intervals, and it correlated positively with measures of depression, anxiety and distorted cognitive content. At termination, the AFQ total score and nearly all single items decreased significantly, and patients who continued to meet diagnostic criteria for panic disorder scored higher on most items than patients who no longer met diagnostic criteria for panic disorder. These preliminary data suggest that attentional fixation is an important dimension of cognition relevant to panic disorder.

Keywords: assessment; attentional fixation; panic disorder; self‐report

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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