Category: PTSD


An Experimental Test of Anxiety Sensitivity as a Causal Risk Factor for PTSD

Saturday, November 18
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom I & J, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Risk / Vulnerability Factors | Stress | Anxiety Sensitivity
Presentation Type: Symposium

Anxiety sensitivity (AS), the fear of negative physical, cognitive, or social consequences of anxious arousal, is a vulnerability factor prospectively associated with posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). Fortunately, AS is malleable through brief intervention, and AS interventions subsequently reduce PTSS. Though AS intervention prior to trauma exposure should alter the course of PTSS development, this has not been tested. This ongoing study experimentally manipulates AS prior to an analog trauma exposure, to examine the effects of mitigating AS on PTSS symptom trajectories. Pre-to-post-intervention changes in AS cognitive concerns (ASCC) are hypothesized to mediate the relationship between AS intervention condition and PTSS change during a one-week follow-up period.

Participants (projected N=72) selected for clinical levels of ASCC are randomly assigned to a single-session cognitive anxiety sensitivity training (CAST) or control, prior to viewing a motor vehicle accident film. ASCC at are recorded at pre- and post-intervention; PTSS specific to the trauma film are measured at day-one and week-one follow-up.

Data collection is ongoing. In the current sample (N=53), ASCC are significantly reduced from pre-to-post-intervention in CAST compared to controls (B=2.77, SE=.89, pF[1,49]=2.09, p=.15, pη2=.041) in CAST. Furthermore, ASCC changes are significantly correlated with PTSS changes during the follow-up period (r=.28, pSE=.37, p=.13, 95%CI [-.179, 1.323]), with a standardized effect size comparable to previous reports in which full mediation is demonstrated (Short et al., in press).

With complete data, the present patterns suggest promising results which will demonstrate that mitigating AS prior to analog trauma exposure can alter the trajectory of PTSS. This model is critical for establishing AS as a causal risk factor for PTSD, and encourages future implementation of AS interventions in samples at high risk of trauma exposure.

Joseph W. Boffa

Clinical Psychology Graduate Student
Florida State University


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An Experimental Test of Anxiety Sensitivity as a Causal Risk Factor for PTSD

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