, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 97-115

Automatic and Strategic Processing of Threat Stimuli: A Comparison Between PTSD, Panic Disorder, and Nonanxiety Controls

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Abstract

This study evaluated 2 hypotheses derived from the theoretical work of A. T. Beck and D. A. Clark (1997). Two anxiety disorder groups, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder (PD), and a nonanxiety control group participated in a modified-Stroop study. The study evaluated whether the diagnostic groups could be differentiated on the basis of responses to stimulus valence and content at different stages of information processing (IP). We found no support for the hypothesis that the diagnostic groups would be sensitive to stimulus valence at automatic stages of IP. Consistent with the second of our 2 hypotheses, the PD group showed delayed vocal responses when processing disorder-specific threat stimuli at strategic stages of IP. The PTSD group showed a generalized valence effect at strategic stages of IP, evincing delayed vocal responses to all stimuli with negative valence. The clinical implications of these findings are discussed, as are directions for future research.