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Psychiatric comorbidity and psychosocial impairment among patients with vertigo and dizziness

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2014 Jun 24. pii: jnnp-2014-307601. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2014-307601. [Epub ahead of print]

Authors/Editors: Lahmann C, Henningsen P, Brandt T, Strupp M, Jahn K, Dieterich M, Eckhardt-Henn A, Feuerecker R, Dinkel A, Schmid G.
Publication Date: 2014


Vertigo and dizziness are often not fully explained by an organic illness, but instead are related to psychiatric disorders. This study aimed to evaluate psychiatric comorbidity and assess psychosocial impairment in a large sample of patients with a wide range of unselected organic and non-organic (ie, medically unexplained) vertigo/dizziness syndromes.

This cross-sectional study involved a sample of 547 patients recruited from a specialised interdisciplinary treatment centre for vertigo/dizziness. Diagnostic evaluation included standardised neurological examinations, structured clinical interview for major mental disorders (SCID-I) and self-report questionnaires regarding dizziness, depression, anxiety, somatisation and quality of life.

Neurological diagnostic workup revealed organic and non-organic vertigo/dizziness in 80.8% and 19.2% of patients, respectively. In 48.8% of patients, SCID-I led to the diagnosis of a current psychiatric disorder, most frequently anxiety/phobic, somatoform and affective disorders. In the organic vertigo/dizziness group, 42.5% of patients, particularly those with vestibular paroxysmia or vestibular migraine, had a current psychiatric comorbidity. Patients with psychiatric comorbidity reported more vertigo-related handicaps, more depressive, anxiety and somatisation symptoms, and lower psychological quality of life compared with patients without psychiatric comorbidity.

Almost half of patients with vertigo/dizziness suffer from a psychiatric comorbidity. These patients show more severe psychosocial impairment compared with patients without psychiatric disorders. The worst combination, in terms of vertigo-related handicaps, is having non-organic vertigo/dizziness and psychiatric comorbidity. This phenomenon should be considered when diagnosing and treating vertigo/dizziness in the early stages of the disease.

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