BACKGROUND: The perception of bronchoconstriction varies among patients with asthma and this perception may be related to the covariation of sensory and affective aspects of dyspnoea. A study was performed to evaluate whether there are differences in the perception of histamine induced bronchoconstriction between anxious and non-anxious perceivers and whether anxious perception of bronchoconstriction can be predicted by higher levels of baseline anxiety. METHODS: Seventy eight asthmatic subjects referred for a histamine challenge test undertook baseline measures for anxiety symptomatology and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) followed by perceived breathlessness (Borg scale), anxiety (SUDS), and FEV1 measurement before and during induced bronchoconstriction. Based on the correlation between Borg and SUDS scores, the patients were divided into anxious and non-anxious perceivers. RESULTS: Forty one patients reported no anxiety during the challenge test. The anxious perceivers (n = 20) had higher levels of perceived breathlessness and anxiety at 20% fall in FEV1 and were more accurate in their perception of airways obstruction than non-anxious perceivers (n = 58). However, they did not report higher baseline levels of anxiety symptomatology. CONCLUSIONS: Anxiety experienced during bronchial challenge testing may result from the accurate perception of physiological changes and further direct attention to airways obstruction.
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