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Neuro-otological and psychiatric abnormalities in a community sample of people with dizziness: a blind, controlled investigation


OBJECTIVES To determine neuro-otological and psychiatric abnormalities associated with complaints of dizziness in an epidemiological community sample of people of working age, and the extent of comorbidity between neuro-otological and psychiatric dysfunction.

METHOD A survey of 3884 people randomly selected from six general practice lists identified 262 people with significant dizziness, from which a subsample of 15 men and 22 women were recruited for testing. Dizzy subjects were evaluated by blind neuro-otological testing, computerised dynamic posturography, a computerised psychiatric assessment, neuro-otological and general medical examination, and diagnosis. An age matched control group of 18 men and 22 women underwent the same evaluation.

RESULTS Tests of auditory, vestibular, and oculo-motor function did not discriminate between dizzy subjects and controls, but dizzy subjects had significantly worse balance on posturographic testing, more diagnoses of medical disorder, and a higher prevalence of psychiatric morbidity.

CONCLUSIONS The findings suggest that dizziness in the community is typically characterised by mild physical disorder accompanied by some psychiatric disturbance. As the combination of minor physical and psychiatric disorder is known to be unusually persistent and handicapping, treatment programmes must be provided for this prevalent syndrome, perhaps by a partnership between primary care and neuro-otological and psychiatric hospital outpatient clinics with experience and expertise in the diagnosis and management of dizziness and psychiatric disturbance.

  • vestibular
  • psychiatric disorder
  • dizziness
  • anxiety
  • panic
  • balance

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