Background. There is a high incidence of panic and somatoform disorders after vestibular neuritis. However, the occurrence of psychiatric disorders has been shown to be unrelated to persistent functional vestibular impairment. The aim of the present study was to examine the role played by cognitions in the development of panic and somatoform disorders.
Method. In a 2-year prospective study, cognitions were recorded at various stages using the Agoraphobic Cognitions Questionnaire and Body Sensations Questionnaire. Our analysis focused on whether body-related anxiety or panic-related thoughts can predict the development of a panic or somatoform disorder.
Results. Fear arising on the first day of an acute vestibular episode did not predict the development of panic or somatoform disorders. One week after the dysfunction, however, the fear of vertigo was a significant predictor, explaining 20% of the variance in the development of either disorder. After 6 weeks, persistent fear of vertigo or vomiting predicted approximately 30% of the variance, and after 6 months panic-related thoughts predicted 40% of the variance and, with the inclusion of body-related fears, as much as 60% of the variance in the development of panic or somatoform disorders.
Conclusion. Our data confirm prospectively a number of fundamental assumptions of cognitive theory concerning the development of anxiety disorders. Subjects who experience vertigo as particularly alarming focus more intensely than other patients on the negative symptoms they perceive as being related to the disorder. Patients with panic-related cognitions were prone to develop panic or somatoform disorders.