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Clin Psychol Rev. 2005 May;25(3):285-306.

Voluntary hyperventilation in the treatment of panic disorder--functions of hyperventilation, their implications for breathing training, and recommendations for standardization.

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  • 1Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, Boston University, USA. ameuret@bu.edu

Abstract

Hyperventilation has numerous theoretical and empirical links to anxiety and panic. Voluntary hyperventilation (VH) tests have been applied experimentally to understand psychological and physiological mechanisms that produce and maintain anxiety, and therapeutically in the treatment of anxiety disorders. From the theoretical perspective of hyperventilation theories of anxiety, VH is useful diagnostically to the clinician and educationally to the patient. From the theoretical perspective of cognitive-behavior therapy, VH is a way to expose patients with panic disorder to sensations associated with panic and to activate catastrophic cognitions that need restructuring. Here we review panic disorder treatment studies using breathing training that have included VH. We differentiate the roles of VH in diagnosis, education about symptoms, training of breathing strategies, interoceptive exposure, and outcome measurement--discussing methodological issues specific to these roles and VH test reliability and validity. We propose how VH procedures might be standardized in future studies.

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