Psychosomatic Medicine vol:67 issue:5 pages:813-819
Although hyperventilation has been hypothesized to play a role in many pathologies, its critical triggers remain poorly understood. The present experiment aimed to test whether stronger hyperventilation responses occur in response to suggested risk of suffocation compared with other fearful situations in high- and low-trait anxious women. Methods: Fractional end-tidal CO2-concentration (FetCO(2)), respiratory frequency, and inspiratory volume were measured nonintrusively in high- (n = 24) and low- (n = 24) trait anxious women during imagery of 3 fear, I tension, I depressive, and 3 relaxation scripts. The fear scripts were equal in ratings of unpleasantness and arousal but differed regarding the inclusion of suggested risk of suffocation and entrapment. After each imagery trial, participants rated the emotional dimensions of pleasantness, arousal, and dominance and the vividness of their imagery. Results: Decreases in FetCO(2) occurred in all fear scripts. High-trait anxious women showed a stronger reduction in FetCO(2) compared with low-trait anxious women during the fear script suggesting risk of suffocation but not during the other fear scripts. This effect was unrelated to any of the self-reported fear ratings. Self-reported fear of entrapment was associated with an overall lower FetCO(2) but not with enhanced reactivity to imagined entrapment. Conclusion: High-trait anxiety is associated with stronger respiratory responsivity to imagined risk of suffocation and may constitute a specific vulnerability factor for the development of panic disorder and claustrophobia.
Afdeling Arbeids- en organisatiepsychologie. Onderzoeksgroep voor Stress, gezondheid en welzijn. Faculteit Geneeskunde.