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The Interactive Contributions of Perceived Control and Anxiety Sensitivity in Panic Disorder: A Triple Vulnerabilities Perspective

Abstract

Within the triple vulnerabilities model of anxiety disorders, a genetic contribution to the development of anxiety and negative affect (i.e., generalized biological vulnerability), a diminished sense of perceived control over aversive events and emotional experiences (i.e., generalized psychological vulnerability), and elevated levels of anxiety sensitivity (i.e., specific psychological vulnerability) are posited to increase the risk of developing and maintaining panic disorder (Barlow American Psychologist 55(11):1247–1263, 2000). The purpose of the present study was to investigate the direct and interactive effects of perceived control and anxiety sensitivity on panic disorder symptom severity. Structural equation models (SEM) were conducted in data derived from a sample of 379 adults with panic disorder participating in a multi-site randomized controlled trial. Findings indicated that both perceived control and anxiety sensitivity uniquely predicted panic disorder symptoms. A moderation model examining the interactive effects of perceived control and anxiety sensitivity on panic symptoms indicated that the effect of anxiety sensitivity on panic symptoms increased with greater deficits in perceived control. The present findings suggest that deficits in perceived control and elevated levels of anxiety sensitivity exert unique and shared effects on panic disorder symptoms, thereby illustrating the relationship between putative vulnerability factors and panic disorder symptoms as predicted by the triple vulnerabilities model.

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Correspondence to Kate H. Bentley.

Additional information

The original study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health with grants R01 MH45963, MH45964, MH45965, and MH45966.

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Bentley, K.H., Gallagher, M.W., Boswell, J.F. et al. The Interactive Contributions of Perceived Control and Anxiety Sensitivity in Panic Disorder: A Triple Vulnerabilities Perspective. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 35, 57–64 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-012-9311-8

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Keywords

  • Panic disorder
  • Perceived control
  • Anxiety
  • Vulnerabilities