Category: Military and Veterans Psychology
Background: Anxiety Sensitivity (AS; Reiss, 1985) arises from beliefs that the experience of anxiety is in itself harmful. The ASI construct is comprised of three subgroups: mental incapacitation (psychological) concern, publicly observable symptoms (social) concerns, and somatic concerns (Zinbarg et al., 1997). Studies have demonstrated AS to be significantly elevated in patients with panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to other anxiety disorders (Taylor, 2003). Further, PTSD has long been associated with deficits in memory, attention and cognitive abilities. The relationship between cognitive abilities and anxiety sensitivity, however, is less understood. Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore how cognitive deficits are related to the subgroups of anxiety sensitivity among OEF/OIF Veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
Methods: 306 male OEF/OIF deployed Veterans, ages 23 to 60 were selected from a larger study PTSD and TBI Research Program at NYU. Every participant confirmed at least one deployment to a combat zone and at least one exposure to a criteria A event. Participants were assessed for PTSD diagnosis based on the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS; Weather et al., 2013), and completed the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI; Peterson & Reiss, 1992; Reiss & McNally, 1985) and the Beck Depression Index (BDI; Beck, 1961) as a self-report measure. The BDI was included given the association of depressive symptoms to the AS psychological concern subgroup. A WebNeuro computerized cognitive battery measured cognitive abilities.
Results: A correlation revealed that ASI total score was negatively associated with controlled attention, flexibility, inhibition, working memory and executive functioning. However, ASI somatic subgroup was negatively associated (p < .05) with the aforementioned cognitive measures with the exception on controlled attention. ASI psychological subgroup was specifically negatively associated with controlled attention, flexibility, and executive functioning only. ASI social was not associated with any cognitive task.
Conclusions: Findings revealed a differential pattern of association between cognitive deficits and specific subgroups of ASI. These results may help increase our present understanding of anxiety sensitivity, specifically among male veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
New York Langone School of Medicine
New York, New York