Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 595–613 | Cite as

Stressor Controllability, Anxiety, and Serotonin

  • Steven F. Maier
  • Linda R. Watkins


It is argued that exposure to stressors cansensitize the neural machinery that mediates fear for aperiod of time, and that during this time period fearconditioning is potentiated and responses to ambiguous or mildly fearful stimuli are exaggerated. Thecontrollability of the stressor is a key characteristicof the stressor which determines whether thissensitization occurs. That is, sensitization follows exposure to uncontrollable, but not tocontrollable, stressors. It is argued that thissensitization of the neural structures that mediate fearmay be similar to what is meant by anxiety, and thatbrain serotonin systems are a key component of thissensitization process. The implications of this point ofview for a variety of phenomena including learnedhelplessness and reactivity to drugs of abuse are discussed.



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© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven F. Maier
  • Linda R. Watkins

There are no affiliations available

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