Objective: After remission of an anxiety disorder, subjects often experience persistent functional impairments. We examined whether impairments in mental and physical functioning following remission are a continuation of premorbid lower functioning (trait effect), due to impairments that develop during the anxiety disorder and persist beyond recovery (scar effect), or both. Methods: Data were derived from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study-2 (NEMESIS-2), a prospective psychiatric epidemiologic study among the general population with a 3-wave design (6-year follow-up, with the study starting in 2007 and ending in 2015). DSM-IV anxiety disorders were measured with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Functioning was assessed with the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short Form Health Survey. We evaluated trait effects using between-subjects comparison and scar effects using within-subjects comparisons. Results: Compared to healthy controls, individuals with anxiety disorders had showed significant impairment in mental functioning (β = -11.6 [SE = 0.78]; P < .001) and physical functioning (β = -12.1 [SE = 1.14]; P < .001) prior to the onset of the anxiety disorder (n = 199), indicating a trait effect. In those who developed an anxiety disorder that remitted within the 6-year followup (n = 92), functioning after remission (at second follow-up) was similar to functioning before onset (at baseline), indicating that a scar effect was absent. A trend toward mental scarring was visible in the subgroup with recurrent anxiety disorders (P = .03). Conclusions: Persistent functional limitations following remission largely reflect a preexisting trait effect. Since lower levels of functioning are associated with relapse, investments in functional improvement seem worthwhile. Relapse prevention might help to prevent mental scarring.
Schopman, S. M. E., Have, M. T., van Dorsselaer, S., de Graaf, R., & Batelaan, N. M. (2018). Limited functioning after remission of an anxiety disorder as a trait effect versus a scar effect: Results of a longitudinal general population study. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 79(3), 37-43. https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.16m11256