Psychological aspects in the perception of dyspnea in obstructive pulmonary diseases

Respir Med. 2007 Mar;101(3):411-22. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2006.06.011. Epub 2006 Aug 8.


Dyspnea is an impairing symptom in obstructive pulmonary diseases. Besides multiple physiological pathways contributing to this sensation recent research has demonstrated an important role of psychological factors in the perception of dyspnea. The present review article synthesizes the research literature with regard to psychological aspects of the perception of dyspnea as well as other dyspnea-related issues such as course of disease, neuropsychological correlates and interventions that focus on psychological or behavioural changes. The available data show that inaccurate perception of dyspnea is related to poorer treatment outcome in obstructive pulmonary diseases and is impacted upon by emotional, attentional and learning processes. Neuropsychological deficits might further contribute to this association. Different psychological and behavioural interventions might reduce comorbid psychological disorders and thus improve the perception of dyspnea. However, future research is clearly required to substantiate current findings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Behavior Therapy / methods
  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology
  • Dyspnea / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Psychotherapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / psychology*
  • Respiration
  • Sensation