OBJECTIVE: This review examines the evidence for psychosocial influences in asthma and behavioral medicine approaches to its treatment.
METHOD: We conducted a systematic review of the literature on psychosocial influences and the evidence for behavioral interventions in asthma with a focus on research in the past 10 years and clinical trials. Additional attention was directed at promising new developments in the field.
RESULTS: Psychosocial factors can influence the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of asthma, either directly through autonomic, endocrine, immunological, and central nervous system mechanisms or indirectly through lifestyle factors, health behaviors, illness cognitions, and disease management, including medication adherence and trigger avoidance. The recent decade has witnessed surging interest in behavioral interventions that target the various pathways of influence. Among these, self-management training, breathing training, and exercise or physical activation programs have proved particularly useful, whereas other essential or promising interventions, such as smoking cessation, dietary programs, perception and biofeedback training, and suggestive or expressive psychotherapy, require further, more rigorous evaluation. Given the high comorbidity with anxiety and mood disorders, further evaluation of illness-specific cognitive behavior therapy is of particular importance. Progress has also been made in devising community-based and culturally tailored intervention programs.
CONCLUSION: In concert with an essential medication treatment, behavioral medicine treatment of asthma is moving closer toward an integrated biopsychosocial approach to disease management.