CONCLUSIONS: Within the poorly understood mechanisms implicated in the aetiology of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), the results of this trial provide clinical evidence of a potential role of emotional stress connected to adverse life events as a trigger of otoconial dysfunction. High levels of anxiety, depression and somatization were recorded and considered psychogenic precursors of BPPV, thus emphasizing the role of psychological distress in precipitating peripheral vestibular disorders. Therefore, appraisal of life stress and psychological attitudes may have potential implications in the clinical assessment of this labyrinthine vertigo and its frequent relapses. OBJECTIVES: BPPV is one of the most common peripheral vestibular disorders, and although it has been the subject of several studies and debates, its aetiology still remains unknown in most cases. Because it has been shown that emotional stress is related to the onset or worsening of other inner ear dysfunctions such as Ménière's disease and sudden hearing loss, this study investigated the hypothesis that life events, mood and psychological attitudes may have a causal relationship with BPPV. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Fifty patients (40 females and 10 men; mean age 43.5+/-10.1 years, range 30-65 years) were recruited and compared with 50 healthy volunteers matched for sex, age and socio-demographic variables. Patients were selected among dizzy patients who were referred to the ENT Clinic of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia from the emergency unit with a primary diagnosis of 'positional vertigo' and enrolled in the study only if they had a paroxysmal positional nystagmus as diagnosed by Dix-Hallpike and Semont's manoeuvres. Patients with a history of recurrent vertigo and additional otoneurological diseases were excluded. The Paykel Life Events Scale, Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Symptom Check List-90 Revisited and Hamilton Depression Scale were the psychometric questionnaires used to complete the audiological and vestibular examinations. RESULTS: Patients with BPPV reported significantly more life events than control subjects in the year preceding the onset of vertigo (p<0.005). Negative life events, objective negative impact and a poor degree of control were also significantly more frequent in patients compared with controls (p<0.005). There were no significant differences between groups concerning positive life events (p>0.05). Psychometric questionnaires recorded significantly higher levels of anxiety, depression and somatization in the pathological sample (p<0.005), as well as an increased obsessive-compulsive attitude (p<0.05).
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