Associations between Emotional Avoidance, Anxiety Sensitivity, and Reactions to an Observational Fear Challenge Procedure

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APA Citation: 

Kelly, M. M., & Forsyth, J. P. (2009). Associations between emotional avoidance, anxiety sensitivity, and reactions to an observational fear challenge procedure. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47, 331-338.

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Empirical
Publication Type: 
Article
Language: 
English
Abstract: 

Research has shown that emotional avoidance and anxiety sensitivity are associated with more self-reported fear and distress in response to laboratory fear challenge procedures. The present study aimed to expand upon this work and examined how emotional avoidance and anxiety sensitivity are related to emotional and physiological responses to an observational fear challenge procedure. To accomplish this aim, a carefully screened, nonclinical sample (N = 43) was administered the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire (AAQ), a measure of emotional avoidance, and the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI). Participants then engaged in an observational fear challenge paradigm. During the fear challenge, participants watched mock panic attacks while emotional (e.g., fear, panic) and skin conductance levels were assessed. Consistent with expectation, emotional avoidance and anxiety sensitivity were positively associated with more self-reported fear and more severe panic symptoms to the challenge procedure. However, anxiety sensitivity was more highly associated with self-reported fear and panic symptoms in response to the challenge procedure than emotional avoidance. Emotional avoidance and anxiety sensitivity were not associated with levels of physiological arousal to the observational fear challenge procedure. Discussion focuses on the interplay between emotional avoidance, anxiety sensitivity, and the development of vicarious fear responses and how these constructs may contribute to the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders.

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