The Journal of Laryngology & Otology

Main Article

Dizziness, migrainous vertigo and psychiatric disorders

R Teggia1 c1, D Caldirolaa3, B Colomboa2, G Pernaa3, G Comia2, L Bellodia3 and M Bussia1

a1 Department of ENT, San Raffaele Hospital, Vita-Salute University, Milan, Italy

a2 Department of Neurology, San Raffaele Hospital, Vita-Salute University, Milan, Italy

a3 Anxiety Disorder Clinical and Research Unit (Istituto Scientifico HS Raffaele), San Raffaele Hospital, Vita-Salute University, Milan, Italy


Objectives: This study sought to establish the prevalence of vestibular disorders, migraine and definite migrainous vertigo in patients with psychiatric disorders who were referred for treatment of dizziness, without a lifetime history of vertigo.

Study design: Retrospective study.

Setting: Out-patients in a university hospital.

Materials and methods: Fifty-two dizzy patients with panic disorders and agoraphobia, 30 with panic disorders without agoraphobia, and 20 with depressive disorders underwent otoneurological screening with bithermal caloric stimulation. The prevalence of migraine and migrainous vertigo was assessed. The level of dizziness was evaluated using the Dizziness Handicap Inventory.

Results: Dizzy patients with panic disorders and agoraphobia had a significantly p = 0.05 regarding the prevalence of peripheral vestibular abnormalities in the group of subjects with PD and agoraphobia and in those with depressive disorders. Migraine was equally represented in the three groups, but panic disorder patients had a higher prevalence of migrainous vertigo definite migrainous vertigo. Almost all patients with a peripheral vestibular disorder had a final diagnosis of definite migrainous vertigo according to Neuhauser criteria. These patients had higher Dizziness Handicap Inventory scores. The Dizziness Handicap Inventory total score was higher in the subgroup of patients with panic disorders with agoraphobia also presenting unilateral reduced caloric responses or definite migrainous vertigo, compared with the subgroup of remaining subjects with panic disorders with agoraphobia (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Our data support the hypothesis that, in patients with panic disorders (and especially those with additional agoraphobia), dizziness may be linked to malfunction of the vestibular system. However, the data are not inconsistent with the hypothesis that migrainous vertigo is the most common pathophysiological mechanism for vestibular disorders.

(Accepted July 30 2009)

(Online publication December 03 2009)


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Roberto Teggi, San Raffaele Hospital, via Olgettina 60, 20132 Milan, Italy. Fax: +39 2 26433508 E-mail:


Dr R Teggi takes responsibility for the integrity of the content of the paper.

Competing interests: None declared