Sex differences in response to a panicogenic challenge procedure: an experimental evaluation of panic vulnerability in a non-clinical sample.

Research paper by Megan M MM Kelly, John P JP Forsyth, Maria M Karekla

Indexed on: 21 Dec '05Published on: 21 Dec '05Published in: Behaviour Research and Therapy


Epidemiological studies show that women are twice as likely as men to develop panic disorder (PD) during their lifetimes. Data from retrospective studies also suggest that women are more distressed by panic and other negative emotional states than men, and that this tendency may precede the development of PD. The present prospective study sought to expand this work by evaluating sex differences in the predisposition to panic in individuals without PD or other forms of psychopathology. Participants (N=96; 52 women) were exposed to 12 panicogenic inhalations of 20% CO2-enriched air while physiological (e.g., heart rate, electrodermal response, Frontalis EMG) and self-report (e.g., subject distress, fear, frequency and severity of DSM-IV panic symptoms) response domains were monitored. As expected, magnitude of autonomic responding failed to reliably discriminate between women and men. Yet, women reported more fear and panic immediately following the challenge procedure relative to men, and this sex difference persisted when assessed again 30 min post-challenge. Implications of these results are discussed broadly in the context of biopsychosocial accounts of sex differences in the clinical presentation of PD.