Orthostatic panic attacks among Vietnamese refugees.

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Orthostatic panic attacks among Vietnamese refugees.

Hinton DE, Hinton L, Tran M, Nguyen M, Nguyen L, Hsia C, Pollack MH.

Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Boston 02114, USA. devon_hinton@hms.harvard.edu

Viewed historically and cross-culturally, orthostatic-induced dizziness, i.e., dizziness caused by standing up from a sitting or a lying position, forms a key aspect of many syndromes: irritable heart (American Civil War), effort syndrome (World War I and World War II), chronic fatigue syndrome (contemporary USA), Gulf War syndrome (contemporary USA), and orthostatic dysregulation (contemporary Japan). Among Vietnamese refugees attending a psychiatric clinic, this study documents a high rate of orthostatic panic (OP), as well as certain processes seemingly generating these panic attacks, viz., flashbacks and culturally specific catastrophic cognitions. Case examples are used to demonstrate OP’s phenomenology and relevance to clinical care. To illustrate the mechanisms producing OP, we adduce the multiplex model of panic generation. Culturally appropriate care of Vietnamese refugees should include assessment and treatment of OP.

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PMID: 18089637 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]