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Pharmacological management of anxiety in patients suffering from schizophrenia

Abstract : Introduction: Anxiety is a major and frequent symptom of schizophrenia, which is associated with an increased risk of relapse, impaired functioning, lower quality of life and increased incidence of suicide attempts. Despite its clinical relevance, anxiety in schizophrenia remains poorly understood. In the prodromic phase, anxiety indicates a progression towards psychotic decompensation. After a first episode, it is an indicator of relapse. Literature findings: Two approaches have been used to investigate anxiety in schizophrenia: (i) categorical approach (comorbidity of schizophrenia and anxiety disorders) and (ii) dimensional approach (anxiety as a major symptom of the “dysphoric” dimension). Clinical categorical studies reported an increased frequency of comorbidity between schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and specific phobia. The dimensional approach proposes that five different factors contribute to the structure of the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), with anxiety as a major symptom of the “dysphoria” dimension. Concerning diagnosis, it is unclear whether psychotic and neurotic anxiety differs in nature or intensity. Nevertheless, both are frequently opposed. Discussion: Psychotic anxiety is intense, profound and hermetic. In contrast to neurotic anxiety, it is associated with psychomotor disturbances, such as agitation and sideration. There is no specific tool to evaluate anxiety in schizophrenia. The dimensional approach usually runs an evaluation using items or factors extracted from the most widely-used scales, i.e. PANSS or Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) or from anxiety scales developed in non-schizophrenic populations, such as the Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAMA). Recently, we developed a specific scale for hetero-evaluation (Échelle Anxiété Schizophrénie [EAS scale]). The EAS scale was recently validated and the study of its sensitivity is ongoing. Therapeutical issues: Several studies have examined the effects of antipsychotics on the anxious/depressive cluster extracted from the PANSS, and some other studies have specifically evaluated the effect of antipsychotics on depressive symptoms using the Montgomery and Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and Calgary Depression Scale for Schizophrenia (CDSS), but to our knowledge, no study has reported the effect of antipsychotics or other treatment on anxiety when using a schizophrenia-specific scale. There are no specific guideline treatments for anxiety in schizophrenia. Among phenothiazines, cyamemazine is frequently prescribed in France, because of its potent anxiolytic activity and good neurological tolerance. Some authors have suggested a specific treatment with benzodiazepines. However, benzodiazepines should be used with caution, due to undesirable actions such as dependence, rebound and potentiation of certain lateral effects.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - 11:23:45 AM
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F.-J. Baylé, O. Blanc, I. de Chazeron, J. Lesturgeon, C. Lancon, et al.. Pharmacological management of anxiety in patients suffering from schizophrenia. L'Encéphale, Elsevier Masson, 2011, 37 (Supp 1), pp.S83-S89. ⟨10.1016/j.encep.2010.08.009⟩. ⟨hal-02158575⟩

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