Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Valentiner, David P.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Anxiety sensitivity; Fear; Panic attacks


Anxiety sensitivity (AS), the tendency to fear one's own anxiety symptoms based on beliefs about their harmful consequences, reliably predicts fearful responding to a variety of tasks that produce strong interoceptive (i.e., somatic) sensations. Consistent with the idea that panic may result from the interaction between fears of specific anxiety symptoms and the experience of congruent anxiety symptoms, panic induction studies have consistently found that fears of the anxiety symptoms produced by a particular panic induction task are the strongest predictor of fearful responding to that task. These studies suggest that the predictive ability of AS in panic induction studies can be significantly enhanced by measuring the construct at the multidimensional level, and that fears of specific types of anxiety symptoms might provide a more powerful explanatory model for predicting emotional responding to aversive stimuli. The goal of the present study was to examine the ability four AS dimensions assessed by the Anxiety Sensitivity Index - Revised to predict fearful responding to four interoceptive exposure exercises in a nonclinical sample. Seventy-two undergraduate participants completed measures of AS, anxiety symptoms, trait anxiety, and panic attack history. Participants then engaged in four exercises: (1) shaking their head quickly from side to side for 90 seconds, (2) running in place for 120 seconds, (3) breathing through a thin coffee straw for as long as possible over two consecutive trials, and (4) reading a prepared speech out loud into a video camera about feeling anxious while experiencing publicly observable anxiety reactions. Each exercise elicited a pattern of fearful responding that was generally consistent with theoretical expectations. Global AS was significantly and uniquely associated with fearful responding to each exercise with the exception of reading the speech, even after controlling for trait anxiety and panic attack history. State anxiety was the strongest predictor of fear, and AS did not account for unique variance in fear after controlling for state anxiety. Contrary to prediction, AS dimensions did not demonstrate an interpretable pattern of predicting fearful responding to the exercises. The results are discussed in terms of cognitive theories of panic, and limitations of the present study and directions for future research are addressed.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [70]-76)


v, 94 pages




Northern Illinois University

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