This paper describes a model of psychopathology termed the panic-agoraphobic spectrum. The model has been constructed by identifying different psychopathologic and clinical domains that incorporate and extend the diagnosis of panic disorder as described in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV).
Categorical classifications do not take into account the subthreshold, atypical, and often enduring symptoms that accompany the core manifestations of full-blown mental disorders. These often-neglected spectrums of symptoms, however, may be as distressing and debilitating as the full-blown disorders and can have unrecognized importance in selection of and response to treatment. At the Department of Psychiatry, Neurobiology, Pharmacology, and Biotechnology, Institute of Psychiatry of the University of Pisa, Italy, a spectrum approach to mental disorders (eg, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, eating, and panic disorders) has been used extensively and has proven effective in clinical practice.
The need for systematic identification and assessment of a broad array of symptoms and behavioral features has led, as a first step, to the conceptualization of the panic-agoraphobic spectrum model. In collaboration with researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, PA, and elsewhere, the University of Pisa scientists have further refined the panic-agoraphobic spectrum model and have developed a structured interview for this spectrum called the Structured Clinical Interview for Panic-Agoraphobic Spectrum. The rationale, clinical usefulness, and heuristic significance of the panic-agoraphobic spectrum model are discussed below.