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A Journal on Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychopharmacology

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Social Psychiatry
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Minerva Psichiatrica 2007 March;48(1):87-98


language: Italian

Nocturnal panic: a review of the literature

Bergesio C., Albert U., Chiarle A., Maina G., Bogetto F.

Servizio per i Disturbi Depressivi e d’Ansia Dipartimento di Neuroscienze Università degli Studi di Torino, Torino


Nocturnal panic (NP) attacks are common among patients with panic disorder (PD), but only recently the research has focused its attention on this clinical entity, which is considered by some authors as a variation of PD and by other ones as a specific subtype with its own etiopathogenesis. NP is characterized by the presence of recurrent nocturnal panic attacks, which awake the patient from sleep. Most of the times nocturnal panic attacks happen in patients with PD (between 18% and 45% of patients with PD have recurrent nocturnal panic attacks), but have been also recognized among subjects with post-traumatic stress disorder. Neurobiological and cognitive models have been proposed to explain NP’s etiopathogenesis. Significant differences between NP and subjects with diurnal panic attacks only did not emerge concerning epidemiology, sociodemographic factors, symptomatological patterns and comorbidity, even if some authors consider NP as a severe and chronic subtype of PD. Loss of vigilance, which might be linked to traumatic events in childhood, has been proposed as a specific cognitive vulnerability factor for NP, while no differences emerged concerning precipitant events. Very few studies specifically addressed the question whether NP responds to the same strategies used in PD; preliminary data indicate that the same interventions are effective although further research is needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn.

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