Tracing “Fearbola”: Psychological Predictors of Anxious Responding to the Threat of Ebola
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Serious illnesses such as Ebola are often highly publicized in the mass media and can be associated with varying levels of anxiety and compensatory safety behavior (e.g., avoidance of air travel). The present study investigated psychological processes associated with Ebola-related anxiety and safety behaviors during the outbreak in late 2014. Between October 30 and December 3, 2014, which encompassed the peak of concerns and of the media’s attention to this particular outbreak, 107 university students completed a battery of measures assessing fear of Ebola, performance of safety behaviors, factual knowledge of the virus, and psychological variables hypothesized to predict Ebola-related fear. We found that while our sample was generally not very fearful of contracting Ebola, the fear of this disease was correlated with general distress, contamination cognitions, disgust sensitivity, body vigilance, and anxiety sensitivity-related physical concerns. Regression analyses further indicated that anxiety sensitivity related to physical concerns and the tendency to overestimate the severity of contamination were unique predictors of both Ebola fear and associated safety behaviors. Implications for how concerns over serious illness outbreaks can be conceptualized and clinically managed are discussed.
KeywordsEbola Health anxiety Anxiety sensitivity Safety behaviors Anxiety Body vigilance Contamination
Conflict of Interest
Shannon M. Blakey, Lillian Reuman, Ryan J. Jacoby, and Jonathan S. Abramowitz declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in this study, which involved human participants, were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval was obtained and informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
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