The prevalence of panic disorder (PD) in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is significantly higher than that in the general population. Comorbid anxiety disorders in COPD are associated with a number of worse outcomes, however little is known about the mechanisms by which PD affects patients with COPD. We hypothesized that patients with COPD and PD would have greater dyspnea severity, but not greater somatosensory sensitivity, to dyspneic stimuli. We studied 10 patients with COPD and PD, 9 patients with COPD without PD, and 9 healthy, matched controls. Participants were administered the Anxiety Sensitivity Index-3. We tested interoceptive sensitivity using a respiratory load detection protocol and dyspnea ratings in response to inspiratory resistive loads. Participants with COPD and PD had higher anxiety sensitivity scores and reported greater dyspnea in response to resistive loads. However no group differences were found in resistive load detection threshold. Anxiety sensitivity scores accounted for a significant amount of the variance in the group difference in dyspnea ratings. Patients with COPD and PD do not show heightened interoceptive sensitivity, but report greater dyspnea to inspiratory resistive loads. Emotional responses to dyspneic sensations may account for higher dyspnea ratings in patients with PD and COPD.
Published by Elsevier B.V.