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J Anxiety Disord. 2008;22(3):429-40. Epub 2007 Mar 27.

Anxiety sensitivity and affect regulatory strategies: individual and interactive risk factors for anxiety-related symptoms.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, MS 3F5, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, United States.


Studies have shown that anxiety sensitivity (AS) is a risk factor in the development of pathological anxiety. Recent theoretical models emphasize the additional importance of how people handle their anxious experiences. The present study examined whether high AS and being fixated on the control and regulation of unwanted anxious feelings or being unable to properly modulate affect as needed lead to particularly problematic outcomes. We examined the interactive influence of AS and affect regulatory strategies on the frequency and intensity of anxiety symptoms. Questionnaires were completed by 248 young adults in the community. Results showed a general pattern with anxiety symptoms being the most severe when high AS was paired with affect regulatory difficulties. Of participants high in AS, anxious arousal and worry were heightened in the presence of less acceptance of emotional distress; anxious arousal, worry, and agoraphobic cognitions were heightened when fewer resources were available to properly modulate affect; and agoraphobic cognitions were heightened in the presence of high emotion expressiveness. As evidence of construct specificity, an alternative model with anhedonic depressive symptoms as a main effect and interaction effect (with regulatory strategies) failed to predict anxiety symptoms. However, anxiety sensitivity and less acceptance of emotional distress were associated with greater anhedonia. Results are discussed in the context of how and when affect regulatory behavior shifts individuals from normative anxiety to pathology.

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