Stein, D.J., Bandelow, B., Dolberg, O.T., Andersen, H.F. and Baldwin, D.S.
How are symptom severity and functional recovery/relapse related? An analysis of the escitalopram database
European Psychiatry, 23, (Supplement 2), . (doi:10.1016/j.eurpsy.2008.01.1279).
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Background: Anxiety disorders are associated with significant disability. There is growing interest in the question of whether pharmacotherapy that effectively reduces symptoms also restores function. Recovery could be defined as a lack of disability, with associated reduction in symptom severity. Conversely, relapse could be defined in terms of either increased disability or increased symptoms.
Methods: We analysed a database of randomised controlled trials of escitalopram in generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD), focusing on the relationship between disorder-specific severity scales, and the Sheehan Disability Scale (SDS). In short-term studies, cut-points on symptom scales were derived for recovered function. In relapse prevention studies, the effects of defining relapse in terms of increased disability scores were examined.
Results: In GAD and SAD, there is a close correlation between primary symptom severity scales and the SDS, both in the short-term and during relapse prevention. Thus, a lack of disability is associated with relatively low symptom severity scores, and rates of relapse - defined in terms of increased disability - are significantly lower on escitalopram than on placebo.
Conclusion: These data indicate that improvement in primary symptom scales in anxiety disorders is accompanied by improvement in functioning, and vice versa. Recovery and relapse can therefore be defined either in terms of symptom severity or in terms of functioning. Longer-term treatment of anxiety disorders is needed to ensure recovery.
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