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April 1952


Author Affiliations


From the Division of Psychosomatic Medicine, Departments of Medicine and Neuropsychiatry, and the Laboratory of Thoracic Physiology, Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, and Barnes Hospital.

AMA Arch NeurPsych. 1952;67(4):434-440. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1952.02320160018002

WE HAVE been greatly impressed by the frequency with which the acute hyperventilation syndrome has been encountered in our psychosomatic clinic.1 This frequency has been pointed out by others,2 and there are many excellent discussions of the clinical features and pathological physiology.3

In the usual case of hyperventilation the condition occurs as a discrete episode, usually of a few minutes' duration, recurring nearly always in a situation of great emotional or physical stress, and usually part of a generalized personality dysfunction, chiefly anxiety neurosis or hysteria.4 Patients with this disorder overbreathe for short periods of time, during which they are aware of dyspnea, chest discomfort, palpitation, lightheadedness, paresthesias, and, finally in some, syncope or tetany. All these symptoms tend to increase the patient's panic and potentiate the hyperventilation.

Alhough these short episodes of hyperventilation may recur frequently and become alarming to the patient, long-continued overbreathing on