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J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2019 May 6:1-8. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2019.1602838. [Epub ahead of print]

Differential Associations of Distress Tolerance and Anxiety Sensitivity With Adolescent Internalizing Psychopathology.

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a Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics , Virginia Commonwealth University.
b Department of Psychology , University of Windsor.


Distress tolerance and anxiety sensitivity may differentiate among internalizing disorders, though few studies have examined differential associations of distress tolerance and anxiety sensitivity with depression and anxiety symptoms while adjusting for their intercorrelation. In an adolescent genetic epidemiological sample (ages 15-21), the present study (N = 848, 56.97% female) examined concurrent associations of distress tolerance and anxiety sensitivity with internalizing psychopathology (i.e., symptoms of depression, anxiety, and general stress) at baseline and prospective, predictive associations of baseline distress tolerance and anxiety sensitivity with internalizing psychopathology at 2-year follow-up. In addition, the present study assessed distress tolerance with two laboratory-based tasks, a carbon dioxide challenge and the mirror-tracing task, to distinguish between tolerance of physiological and cognitive distress, respectively. Elevated anxiety sensitivity was broadly associated with elevated symptoms of internalizing psychopathology at baseline and prospectively predicted elevated depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms at 2-year follow-up. Higher tolerance of cognitive distress was associated with lower concurrent anxiety symptoms but not with anxiety symptoms at follow-up. The present results clarify previously mixed findings; during adolescence, anxiety sensitivity showed broad concurrent and prospective associations with internalizing disorder risk whereas distress tolerance, specifically regarding cognitive distress, was associated with only elevated concurrent anxiety symptoms.

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