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Approved research

Respiratory difficulties in people suffering from clinical anxiety

Principal Investigator: Dr Laura Sbaffi
Approved Research ID: 50461
Approval date: November 28th 2019

Lay summary

Anxiety in its various forms, such as phobias, panic attacks or a tendency to worry too much, is one of the most common problems which psychologists are asked to help people with. People who are chronically anxious also often have difficulties with their breathing, for example breathing too fast (hyperventilation) or not being able to breathe deeply enough which makes them feel breathless. Although clinicians who treat anxious people are very familiar with these breathing difficulties, there is very little research to show exactly how the two go together, how common they really are, or which kinds of anxiety go particularly with certain types of breathing problem. The present research will compare two groups of people from the Biobank data: a group of people suffering from anxiety in its various forms and another with no history of anxiety. The Biobank data contains various measures of lung function such as lung volume, and the speed and force with which people can blow. The two groups will be compared to discover differences in lung function, and within the anxious group we will also look for differences according to the type and severity of anxiety. Therapists vary considerably in how they treat people with anxiety; some place great importance on retraining the breathing whilst others do not. This research will help to clarify our understanding of the importance of breathing difficulties in anxiety and it will help practitioners to develop treatment programmes which are better targeted towards individual patients. The research is expected to take a year to complete.