Dyspnea from Neuropsychyatric Perspective: a Narrative Review

Psychiatr Danub. 2018 Mar;30(1):11-20. doi: 10.24869/psyd.2018.11.


Dyspnea or breathlessness is a term primarily used in respiratory medicine. Nevertheless, in the last fifteen years, studies from other fields focus on the affective component of this complex phenomenon due to the frequent observation that psychological states can cause or be caused by dyspnea. Research so far shows that besides the biological component, dyspnea has a strong emotional and psychosocial determinant. This means that apart from its biological factors, dyspnea and its intensity are affected by emotions, personality, anxiety and depression, etc. Individuals with psychiatric disorders, in the same conditions, will evaluate their dyspnea as more intense and disturbing compared to individuals without psychiatric comorbidity. Emotional states in healthy individuals can amplify the sense of dyspnea which is of extreme importance for clinical practice in order to consider the whole person and not just the symptom which is being presented. Also, dyspnea seems to be frequent complaint in some groups of patients with psychiatric disorders (e.g.panic disorder), where the fear of suffocation is presented as clinical symptom. Futher research of dyspnea as a complex, multicomponent phenomenon, can contribute to better treatment options and better differential diagnosis concerning possible psychiatric background of physical symptoms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders* / complications
  • Dyspnea* / psychology
  • Fear
  • Humans
  • Panic Disorder* / complications