Heart-beat perception, panic/somatic symptoms and anxiety sensitivity in children.
Eley TC., Stirling L., Ehlers A., Gregory AM., Clark DM.
There is considerable evidence implicating heart-beat perception (HBP) accuracy and anxiety sensitivity (AS) in the development of panic in adults. However, to date there have been no studies exploring the association between HBP, AS and childhood panic/somatic symptoms. Seventy-nine children aged 8 to 11 years completed a mental tracking paradigm (Psychophysiology 18 (1981) 483) to assess HBP, the Children's Anxiety Sensitivity Index (J Clin Chil Psychol 20 (1991) 162) and the Screen for Childhood Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (J Am Acad Child Adoles Psych 38 (1999) 1230). Those with good HBP (n = 7, 9%) had significantly higher panic/somatic symptoms (t = -1.71, P < 0.05), and AS (t = -2.16, P < 0.02) than those with poor HBP. There were no effects of age, sex or BMI on HBP. Those with high levels of panic/somatic symptoms were seven times more likely to have good HBP and had AS scores 1 S.D. higher than the remainder of the sample. Multivariate analyses revealed that these two phenotypes had independent associations with high panic/somatic symptoms. These results extend the literature on HBP and panic and suggest that in children, as in adults, increased panic/somatic symptoms are associated with enhanced ability to perceive internal physiological cues, and fear of such sensations.