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Keywords:

  • respiration;
  • variability;
  • panic disorder;
  • fear;
  • trait

Abstract

Disordered breathing may play an important role in the pathophysiology of panic disorder. Several studies have now indicated that panic disorder patients have greater respiratory variability than normal controls. In this study, we examine baseline respiratory measures in four diagnostic groups to determine whether greater respiratory variability is specific to panic disorder and whether effective anti-panic treatment alters respiratory variability. Patients with panic disorder, major depression, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and normal control subjects underwent two respiratory exposures (5% and 7% CO2 inhalation), while in a canopy system. Panic disorder patients returned after 12 weeks of either anti-panic medication or cognitive behavioral therapy, and were retested. Normal control subjects were also retested after a period of 12 weeks. Panic disorder patients had significantly greater respiratory variability at baseline than normal control subjects and patients with major depression. The premenstrual dysphoric patients also had greater variability than the normal control group. Panic disorder patients who panicked to 7% CO2 inhalation had significantly greater baseline variability than panic disorder patients who did not panic. Anti-panic treatment did not significantly alter baseline respiratory variability. Our data suggest that increased respiratory variability may be an important trait feature for some panic disorder patients and may make them more vulnerable to CO2-induced panic. Depression and Anxiety 14:232–237, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.