Differences in latency to first pharmacological treatment (duration of untreated illness) in anxiety disorders: a study on patients with panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive–compulsive disorder
The latency to first pharmacological treatment (duration of untreated illness or ‘DUI’) is supposed to play a major role in terms of outcome in psychotic conditions. Interest in the field of affective disorders and, in particular, of duration of untreated anxiety, has been recently registered as well. However, a preliminary epidemiologic investigation of the phenomenon is necessary. The present study was aimed to investigate and compare age at onset, age at first pharmacological treatment and DUI in a sample of patients affected by different anxiety disorders. DUI was defined as the interval between the onset of the specific anxiety disorder and the administration of the first adequate pharmacological treatment in compliant subjects.
Study sample included 350 patients, of both sexes, with a DSM-IV-TR diagnosis of panic disorder (n = 138), generalized anxiety disorder (n = 127) and obsessive–compulsive disorder (n = 85).
Panic disorder was associated with the shortest DUI (39.5 months), whereas obsessive–compulsive disorder was associated with the longest latency to treatment (94.5 months) (F = 13.333; P < 0.0001). Patients with generalized anxiety disorder showed a mean DUI of 81.6 months.
Present results indicate that patients with different anxiety disorders may wait for years (from 3 up to 8) before receiving a first adequate pharmacological treatment. Differences in terms of age at onset, age at the first pharmacological treatment and, ultimately, in DUI in specific anxiety disorders may depend on multiple clinical and environmental factors. Latency to non-pharmacological interventions (e.g. psychoeducation and different forms of psychotherapy) needs to be addressed and correlated with DUI in future studies.