Fear of bright daylight is associated with panic disorder, according to new research presented at the ECNP congress in Berlin.
Panic disorder is where a person has recurring and regular panic attacks. In the UK, it affects about two in 100 people, and it’s about twice as common in women as it is in men1.
Previous studies have shown that there is a strong seasonal component in panic disorder, but this is the first study to look specifically at panic disorder patients’ reactions to light.
A group of researchers from the University of Siena (Italy) compared 24 patients with panic disorder (PD) against 33 healthy controls. Using a standard Photosensitivity Assessment Questionnaire (PAQ), they found that healthy controls showed a slight (not statistically significant) tendency to be photophilic – to be attracted to bright light. In contrast, the patients with panic disorder showed medium to high levels of aversion to bright light.
The Photosensitivity Assessment Questionnaire asks subjects to agree or disagree with a series of questions about their attitude towards light, for example “My ideal house has large windows” or “Sunlight is so annoying to me, that I have to wear sunglasses when I go out”. The mean values in the Photosensitivity Assessment Questionnaire were as follows: patients with photophobia scored 0.34 (± 0.32 SD), healthy subjects scored 0,11 (± 0,13 SD).
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