Our objective is to summarize the new findings concerning the respiratory subtype (RS) of panic disorder (PD) since its first description.
Two searches were made in the Institute for Scientific Information Web of Science: with the keywords “panic disorder” and “respiratory symptoms,” and all articles that cited Briggs and colleagues’ 1993 article “Subtyping of Panic Disorder by Symptom Profile” (Br J Psychiatry 1993;163:201–9). Altogether, 133 articles were reviewed.
We describe and discuss RS epidemiology, genetics, psychopathology, demographic features, clinical features, correlations with the respiratory system, traumatic suffocation history, provocative tests, and nocturnal panic. Compared to patients with the nonrespiratory subtype (non-RS), the RS patients had higher familial history of PD, lower comorbidity with depression, longer duration of illness, lower neuroticism scores, and higher scores in severity scales, such as the Panic and Agoraphobia Scale, Panic-Agoraphobia Spectrum scale and the Clinical Global Impression scale. Tests to induce panic attacks, such as those with CO2, hyperventilation, and caffeine, produce panic attacks in a higher proportion of RS patients than non-RS patients. Differences in the subtypes’ improvement with the pharmacologic treatment were found. There are also some controversial findings regarding the RS, including the age of onset of PD, and alcohol and tobacco use in RS patients.
Some characteristics, such as the increased sensitivity to CO2 and the higher familial history of PD, clearly distinguish the RS from the non-RS. Nevertheless, there are also controversial findings. More studies are needed to determine the validity of the RS subtype.