Subjective symptoms and breathing pattern at rest and following hyperventilation in anxiety and somatoform disorders

J Psychosom Res. 1998 Dec;45(6):519-32. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(98)00044-0.


The purpose of the present study was to investigate the diagnostic specificity of bodily symptoms and respiratory behavior at rest and after a hyperventilation provocation test (HVPT) in patients that were either grouped according to the DSM classification or diagnosed as suffering from hyperventilation syndrome. Nine hundred three anxiety and somatoform patients, showing symptoms supposedly caused by psychogenic hyperventilation, and 170 healthy subjects, were studied. Breathing pattern and end-tidal CO2 concentration were recorded during breathing at rest and following a HVPT. Subjective symptoms in daily life and after HVPT were measured. A principal-components analysis was performed on both the symptoms and breathing variables and their specificity levels were compared in the two classifications of patients. Some symptoms in daily life were grouped together with the same symptoms after the HVPT, other symptoms were not. This suggests that the HVPT elicited partly specific symptoms, and partly reproduced the symptoms experienced in daily life. Similar findings were observed with respect to the breathing variables. Patients with panic differed from other patients with anxiety disorders by an increased level of symptoms and a FETCO2 decline at rest. The HVPT may be informative for diagnosis because it provokes some of the typical somatic and psychological symptoms, and it identifies the breathing instability that is characteristic of both patients with HVS and with anxiety. The same symptoms and breathing variables characterized the patients, whatever their classification. Overall, the specificity of breathing variables is rather low.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Humans
  • Hyperventilation / metabolism
  • Hyperventilation / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Respiration Disorders / psychology
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology*
  • Syndrome*