Washington | Anxiety may aggravate asthma symptoms and decrease lung function, according to a new study. The research suggests that therapies aimed at reducing anxiety can help asthma patients better manage the lung disease.
Anxiety sensitivity, in simple terms, is a fear of fear. But when people with anxiety sensitivity also have asthma, their suffering can be far more debilitating and dangerous, because they have difficulty managing their asthma.
The study explores this issue and recommends treatment to help decrease asthma symptoms. The researchers from the University of Cincinnati in US recruited 101 college undergraduates who reported having asthma.
The experiment aimed to mimic asthma symptoms by having study participants breathe in-and-out through a narrow straw, about the width of a coffee-stirrer straw. As expected, people who reported higher anxiety sensitivity not only reported greater anxiety during the straw-breathing task, but also experienced greater asthma symptoms and decreased lung function, researchers said.
Anxiety sensitivity not only helps explain why we see higher rates of anxiety disorders, but also why anxiety is associated with poorer asthma outcomes, said Alison McLeish, associate professor of psychology at the University of Cincinnati.
As a result, the study recommended interventions for anxiety sensitivity such as exposure therapy aimed at reducing the anxiety. Safety controls were in place during the straw breathing exercise and all participants were required to have their inhalers with them in case they experienced an asthma attack. Students were told they could stop at any time during the straw-breathing exercise.
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