A Test of the Effects of Assessment and Feedback on Individuals with Panic Attacks


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Virginia Tech


Treatment outcome studies investigating potential treatments for panic disorder invariably begin with a lengthy assessment designed to determine whether a potential subject meets criteria for the disorder. Through the process of assessment, subject are usually given some form of feedback about their condition, if only to tell them they meet criteria to enter the study. Assessment and feedback are thought to have therapeutic effects and empirical evidence is beginning to document this (Bien, Miller, & Tonigan, 1993; Finn & Tonsager, 1992). To date, there have been no studies that investigate the effects of assessment plus feedback or assessment alone on individuals with panic attacks. This study investigated whether assessment or assessment plus feedback produced any differential effects on panic attack sufferers.

Seventy participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups: 1) assessment with mailed feedback (n=17); 2) assessment with face-to-face feedback (n=14); 3) assessment with no feedback (n=19); and 4) no assessment or feedback (n=20). Assessment consisted of completing a composite self-report instrument that asks about frequency of panic attacks and panic-related symptomatology. Feedback was standardized and computer generated but individualized based on scores on the assessment measure. All groups completed the outcome measures and between group differences were examined. No statistically significant differences were found between these four groups on any dependent measure. However, for a smaller subset of participants (N=35) who had at least one full panic attack at pre-assessment, a significant reduction in frequency of combined (full plus limited-symptom) panic attacks was seen pre to post, F(1,32)=7.47, p<.01, with a marginally significant two-way interaction of Time and Condition, F(2,32)=3.12, p<.06. Basically, both feedback groups showed a reduction in panic attacks while the assessment only condition remained the same.



panic attacks, self-help, assessment, feedback