Tinnitus and anxiety disorders: A review

T. Pattyn, F. Van den Eede, S. Vanneste, L. Cassiers, D. J. Veltman, P. Van de Heyning, B. C. G. Sabbe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

147 Citations (Scopus)


The most common form of tinnitus is a subjective, auditory, and distressing phantom phenomenon. Comorbidity with depression is high but other important psychiatric disorders such as anxiety disorders have received less attention. The current paper reviews the literature on the associations between tinnitus and anxiety disorders and the underlying pathophysiology, and discusses the clinical implications.

PubMed and Web of Science were searched for all articles published up until October 2014 using combinations of the following search strings “Tinnitus”, ”Anxiety disorder”, “Panic Disorder”, “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”, “Post traumatic stress disorder”, “PTSD” “Social Phobia”, “Phobia Disorder”, “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder”, “Agoraphobia”.

A total of 117 relevant papers were included. A 45% lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders is reported in tinnitus populations, while an important overlap in associated (sub)cortical brain areas and cortico-subcortical networks involved in attention, distress, and memory functions is suggested. A disturbed hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function can be found in tinnitus and in anxiety disorders but, in comorbidity, the direction of the dysfunction is unclear.

Comorbidity is high and screening for and treatment of anxiety disorders is recommended in moderate to severe tinnitus, as, given the overlap in the structural and functional brain circuitries involved, theoretically, their management could improve (subjective) levels of tinnitus although further empirical research on this topic is required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-265
JournalHearing research
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • Epidemiology
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Neurobiology
  • PTSD
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobia
  • Treatment

Cite this