Emotion recognition patterns in patients with panic disorder



Recognition of facially expressed emotions is essential in social interaction. For patients with social phobia, general anxiety disorders, and comorbid anxiety, deficits in their emotion recognition and specific biases have already been reported. This is the first study to investigate facial emotion recognition patterns in patients with panic disorder [PD]. We assumed a general performance deficit in patients with PD. Exploratory analyses should have revealed recognition patterns and specific types of errors. Additionally, we checked the influence of depression and anxiety symptoms, per se, on recognition. A carefully selected group of 37 patients with PD without agoraphobia [DSM-IV 300.01] and no psychiatric comorbidity was compared to 43 controls matched for age and sex. We assessed emotion recognition with the FEEL Test [Facially Expressed Emotion Labeling], using faces displaying fear, anger, sadness, happiness, disgust, and anger. Recognition of emotions in patients with PD was significantly worse than that of controls, specifically, sadness and anger. They also showed a tendency to interpret nonanger emotions as anger. Interestingly, in patients with PD, depressive symptoms were more strongly related to emotion recognition than were anxiety symptoms, and recognition differences between patients and controls disappeared when we controlled for depression. This effect is discussed in the context of previous studies reporting emotion recognition deficits of depressed patients. Depression and Anxiety 24:223–226, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.