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The Role of Prediagnosis Audiovestibular Dysfunction Versus Distress, Illness-Related Cognitions, and Behaviors in Predicted Ongoing Dizziness Handicap

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-795
Number of pages9
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number8
Published5 Oct 2020

King's Authors



People with chronic vestibular diseases experience variable degrees of self-perceived disability. However, longitudinal data examining the predictive validity of relevant clinical variables alongside psychological variables are limited. The present study examined whether these factors predict self-reported dizziness handicap 3 months after assessment and diagnosis.


Patients were recruited from a waiting list of a tertiary neuro-otology clinic and completed standardized mood, cognitive, behavioral, and dizziness handicap questionnaires before and 3 months after their initial consultation and diagnosis. All patients were clinically assessed and underwent comprehensive audiovestibular investigations.


Seventy-three percent of participants responded at follow-up (n = 135, 73% female, mean [standard deviation] age = 54.23 [17.53] years), of whom 88% were diagnosed with a neurotological condition. There were significant improvements in handicap, depression, and anxiety at 3 months. Thirty (22%) of 135 showed clinically meaningful improvement in handicap. The percentage of case-level depression and anxiety remained the same. Negative illness perceptions and symptom responses reduced, although participants still tended to view their condition negatively. Vestibular tests and type of diagnosis were not associated with self-reported handicap. Most baseline psychological variables significantly correlated with handicap at 3 months. When adjusting for baseline handicap and demographics, the baseline psychological variables only explained a significant ~3% of the variance in dizziness handicap at follow-up, with baseline handicap explaining most of the variance. All-or-nothing behavior was the most significant predictor.


Tertiary patients with vertigo and dizziness report negative illness perceptions and cognitive and behavioral responses to symptoms that are associated with self-reported handicap over time. Future studies are needed to investigate whether targeting these factors alongside traditional treatment approaches improves handicap in patients with chronic dizziness.

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