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Specific Associations between Anxiety Sensitivity Dimensions and Fear and Distress Dimensions of Emotional Distress Disorders

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Abstract

Anxiety sensitivity (AS) comprises three lower-order dimensions, physical concerns, cognitive concerns, and social concerns, all of which are related to unipolar mood and anxiety disorders (emotional distress disorders). The pattern of these relations suggests that AS cognitive concerns might be best classified as associated with emotional distress disorders clustered together as distress disorders whereas AS physical concerns might be best classified as associated with emotional distress disorders clustered together as fear disorders. In contrast, AS social concerns appears to be generally associated with both fear and distress disorders. To test the specificity of lower-order AS dimensions, structural equation modeling was employed in a sample of 579 individuals (M age = 36.87 years, SD = 13.47; 51.6 % male) constituting a sample at risk for psychopathology as these individuals were seeking smoking cessation treatment. AS physical concerns was associated with the fear disorders dimension, even when controlling for negative affect (NA). AS cognitive concerns was associated with the distress disorder dimension, only when the effects of NA were not included. Finally, AS social concerns demonstrated non-specific relations with both the distress and fear disorders dimensions. Given that measures of AS and psychopathology were collected concurrently, these findings cannot address the role of lower-order AS dimensions as risk factors for specific psychopathology clusters. These results provide further support for the hierarchical model of emotional distress disorders as well as implicate AS cognitive and physical concerns as important variables at the intermediate level of this model.

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Funding source

This research was funded by NIH grant R01-MH076629. NIMH did not have influence over the study design, collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, in the writing of the report or the decision to submit this article for publication. Address correspondence to Nicholas P. Allan, Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306–4301; allan@psy.fsu.edu or Norman B. Schmidt, Department of Psychology, P.O. Box 3064301, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306–430; schmidt@psy.fsu.edu.

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The authors have no actual or potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

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This study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards at Florida State University and the University of Vermont.

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Allan, N.P., Norr, A.M., Capron, D.W. et al. Specific Associations between Anxiety Sensitivity Dimensions and Fear and Distress Dimensions of Emotional Distress Disorders. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 37, 67–78 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-014-9437-y

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