Helpful and hindering factors for remission in dysthymia and panic disorder at 9-year follow-up: A mixed methods study

Svanborg, Cecilia; Bäärnhielm, Sofie; Wistedt, Anna Åberg; Lützen, Kim
January 2008
BMC Psychiatry;2008, Vol. 8, Special section p1
Academic Journal
Background: A better understanding is needed of factors behind the long-term outcome of dysthymic and panic disorders. Combining patients' perceptions of factors that help and hind remission with objective assessments of outcome may give greater insight into mechanisms for maintaining recovery. Methods: Twenty-three dysthymic and 15 panic disorder patients participated in a 9-year follow-up investigation of a naturalistic study with psychotherapy and antidepressants. Degree of remission was determined by reassessments with SCID-I & II interviews, self-reported symptoms and life-charting (aided by case records). Qualitative content analysis of in-depth interviews with all 38 patients was done to examine the phenomenon of enduring remission by exploring: 1) perceived helpful and hindering factors, 2) factors common to and specific for the diagnostic groups, 3) convergence between patients' subjective views on remission with objective diagnostic assessments. Results: About 50% of the patients were in full or partial remission. Subjective and objective views on degree of remission generally converged, and remission was perceived as receiving 'Tools to handle life'. Common helpful factors were self-understanding, enhanced flexibility of thinking, and antidepressant medication, as well as confidence in the therapist and social support. The perceived main obstacle was difficulty in negotiating treatments. Remitted had overcome the obstacles, whereas many non-remitted had problems expressing their needs. Patients with dysthymia and panic disorder described specific helpful relationships with the therapist: 'As a parent' versus 'As a coach', and specific central areas for change: self-acceptance and resolution of relational problems versus awareness and handling of feelings. Conclusion: A general model for recovery from dysthymic and panic disorders is proposed, involving: 1) understanding self and illness mechanisms, 2) enhanced flexibility of thinking, and 3) change from avoidance coping to approach coping; and recognising that a vehicle for this change is a helpful relationship to the health care provider. The perceived needs of specific treatment ingredients suggest that it is essential to differentiate between early-onset dysthymia and secondary depressions. The perceived access problems will be further investigated.


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