Psychological defenses and coping styles in patients following a life-threatening attack of asthma

Chest. 1989 Jun;95(6):1298-303. doi: 10.1378/chest.95.6.1298.


Twenty-five patients who have suffered a near miss asthma death (NMAD) have undergone a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation on average 13 months following this event. Forty percent of the patients were judged to have psychiatric disorders at the time of assessment. All patients had very high levels of denial and following the NMAD, patients appeared to either decompensate psychiatrically, usually exhibiting symptoms of anxiety disorders, or further increase their levels of denial. Those patients who had psychiatric illnesses at the time of the study were more constitutionally vulnerable towards developing these disorders and had a reduced perception of their quality of life compared with the patients who increased their levels of denial following the NMAD. The effects of the NMAD on patients and their families ranged from mutual anger and anxiety, although the anger was often repressed, to mutual overinvolvement and overdependence. The presence of high levels of denial of asthma and a history of psychiatric illness in the patient appear to be factors that may increase the likelihood of death from asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / psychology*
  • Denial, Psychological*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Surveys and Questionnaires