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Depress Anxiety. 2008;25(9):768-73.

Cognitive vulnerability in fear of flying: the role of anxiety sensitivity.

Author information

1
Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. Anouk.VandenBogaerde@UGent.be

Abstract

Previous research has indicated that more than 50% of air travel passengers experience hypoxia above clinical threshold. This condition produces a number of aversive somatic sensations such as difficulty breathing, elevated heart rate, dizziness, etc. Because these symptoms closely resemble the somatic symptoms of anxiety, it is interesting to look into a possible relationship between hypoxia-related symptoms and fear of flying. More specifically, the aim of this study is to clarify the role of anxiety sensitivity as a cognitive vulnerability marker in this relationship. Anxiety sensitivity is the specific tendency to interpret bodily sensations as threatening or harmful. Our hypothesis is that anxiety sensitivity moderates the relationship between hypoxia-related symptoms and fear of flying. When people with high anxiety sensitivity fly and experience somatic symptoms, they will make threatening interpretations causing fear and as a possible consequence avoidance behaviour leading to flight anxiety. About 160 participants were asked to complete the Flight Anxiety Situations Questionnaire, the Flight Anxiety Modality Questionnaire and the Anxiety Sensitivity Index. Results of a moderator analysis indicated that the relationship between somatic sensations and in-flight anxiety is stronger for people with high anxiety sensitivity than for people with low anxiety sensitivity. So it seems that anxiety sensitivity does indeed function as a moderator between the experience of somatic sensations while flying and in-flight anxiety. Clinical implications are discussed, as well as suggestions for further research.

PMID:
17985351
DOI:
10.1002/da.20359
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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