SSRIs vs. TCAs in the treatment of panic disorder: a meta-analysis


Abraham Bakker Sint Lucas Andreas Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, PO Box 9243, 1006 AE Amsterdam, The Netherlands E-mail:


Bakker A, van Balkom AJLM, Spinhoven P. SSRIs vs. TCAs in the treatment of panic disorder: a meta-analysis. Acta Psychiatr Scand 2002: 106: 163–167. © Blackwell Munksgaard 2002.

Objective: To compare the short-term efficacy of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) vs. tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) in the treatment of panic disorder (PD) a meta-analysis was conducted.

Method: Included were 43 studies (34 randomized, nine open), pertaining to 53 treatment conditions, 2367 patients at pretest and 1804 at post-test. Outcome was measured with the proportion of patients becoming panic-free, and with pre/post Cohen's d effect sizes, calculated for four clinical variables: panic, agoraphobia, depression, and general anxiety.

Results: There were no differences between SSRIs and TCAs on any of the effect sizes, indicating that both groups of antidepressants are equally effective in reducing panic symptoms, agoraphobic avoidance, depressive symptomatology and general anxiety. Also the percentage of patients free of panic attacks at post-test did not differ. The number of drop-outs, however, was significantly lower in the group of patients treated with SSRIs (18%) vs. TCAs (31%).

Conclusion: SSRIs and TCAs are equal in efficacy in the treatment of panic disorder, but SSRIs are tolerated better.