Objective: It has been hypothesized that individuals who cannot perceive elevations of CO2 will be less anxious than individuals with intact CO2 perception. To test this hypothesis, children with congenital central hypoventilation syndrome, who have a potentially lethal chronic illness associated with lack of CO2 perception and thus provide a natural experimental group, were studied. Method: Rates of anxiety symptoms and disorders in children with congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (N=13) were compared with rates in an age-matched, nonreferred group of community subjects (N=292) that included subgroups of children with asthma (N=15) and other chronic medical illnesses (N=66). Anxiety symptoms were assessed with information obtained from structured interviews of the parents, which provided both total symptom scores and DSM-III-R diagnoses. Results: The children with congenital central hypoventilation syndrome exhibited significantly fewer anxiety symptoms than all other comparison subjects. Two of these children (15%) met criteria for anxiety disorders, a rate lower than that of the whole community group (24%) and of the chronically ill comparison subgroups (32%-47%). The largest difference in the prevalence of disorder emerged between the children with congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (15%) and those with asthma (47%). In the comparison of children with congenital central hypoventilation syndrome and children with other chronic illnesses, a priori analysis showed that the former had significantly lower rates of disorders that have been linked to panic in the literature. Conclusions: This study supports theories of anxiety that implicate CO2 perception in the pathophysiology of panic and related anxiety states.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health