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Asthma and Panic- a vicious cycle

A 20-year prospective study published in Amercian Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine// has explored the relation between asthma and panic attack in young adults. Around 590 young adults were followed between ages 19 and 40 and information was obtained using semistructured diagnostic interviews. These interview scheduldes were conducted by trained professionals. At each interview, information on the occurrence of allergic rhinitis, urticaria, eczema, asthma attacks, or asthmalike breathing problems was enquired. Also the individuals were categorized into two groups (1) panic disorder as those who had recurrent unexplained panic attacks during the year before the interview, and (2) any panic as those who had panic disorder or panic attacks.

The findings over the whole study period showed that asthma was more strongly associated with panic disorder than with any panic. When the pattern of asthma was followed up on the young adults, after adjusting for potentially confounding variables, they found that 20.9 percent of the subjects with asthma had panic disorder and 32.6 percent had a panic disorder or panic attacks. Similarly, 19.6 percent of individuals with panic disorder had asthma, and 11.6 percent of those with any panic condition had asthma. The study showed that even though asthma predicted any panic, any panic did not predict subsequent asthma activity. The above link between asthma and panic was stronger in smokers than in nonsmokers and in women than in men.

The possible explanation for asthma and panic attack being in a vicious cycle was proposed by the authors to the possible fact that having asthma which could be a potentially life-threatening condition, may increase the level of anxiety, and in turn can cause panic in some individuals and panic could in turn trigger an episode of asthma.
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