, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 235-248

Misinterpretation of ambiguous stimuli in panic disorder

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Abstract

This study investigated whether cognitive misinterpretation of ambiguous interoceptive stimuli is a process specific to panic disorder or whether it is found in other anxiety disorders. It also investigated the relationship of this cognitive bias to anxiety sensitivity. Results showed it to be stronger in panic disorder than in social phobia but only when the relevant cognitive schema were specifically activated. This cognitive bias therefore also existed in social phobia, albeit to a lesser degree. Evidence of a strong relationship between misinterpretation of ambiguous interoceptive stimuli and anxiety sensitivity was lacking. The results were interpretated as supporting the view that attentional bias toward ambiguous somatic cues is specifically related to activation of relevant cognitive schema, which are particularly extensive in panic disorder.