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Relaxation vs biofeedback in relation with panic disorder : a SYMBIOFI clinical study


Fontan Hospital - Adult Psychiatry Department


Laboratory, University Lille 3 : J.C. LEBEAU, under the supervision of Professor M. HAUTEKEETE
Anxiety Department- Fontan Hospital : Dr. D. SERVANT

Title of the study

Mitigating panic disorder with the use of a simple relaxation method vs. a biofeedback technique.

Background and objectives

Patients experiencing panic disorder feel out of breath, or even experience a feeling of suffocation. These symptoms, which have been extensively described, are often associated with hyperventilation and a feeling of estrangement. Hyperventilation often leads to panick attacks.
Relaxation and breathing control are widely used to combat panic disorder. The techniques that are generally resorted to are derived from the Jacobson method, which many programs mobilize. During the relaxation sessions, patients often allow therapists to guide them, and thus do not become fully aware that they have entered a state of relaxation. In this respect, a biofeedback technique could prove useful, as it would allow patients to benchmark their state of relaxation through clear data, which could in turn provide patients with the opportunity to feel more in control of events. Perceived helplessness is indeed a key element in panic disorder (Barlow, 1988): it can be hypothezised that rebuilding patients’ self-confidence and control will lead to improved outcomes.

The objective of the current study is to compare the efficiency of a simple relaxation technique vs. a biofeedback technique, the latter being used to improve heart rate variability and reduce the patient’s feeling of helplessness.