Anxiety Sensitivity Prospectively Predicts Increased Acute Posttraumatic Stress and Related Symptoms After Sexual Assault

Nicole A. Short, Megan Lechner, Kathy Bell, Jenny Black, Jennie Buchanan, Jeffrey Ho, Gordon Reed, Amanda Corzine, Ralph Riviello, Sandra L. Martin, Israel Liberzon, Sheila Rauch, Samuel A. McLean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Anxiety sensitivity is a potential risk factor for posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and has been hypothesized to contribute to PTSS development. However, few prospective studies have evaluated whether anxiety sensitivity predicts PTSS. In a subsample of 48 women sexual assault survivors enrolled as part of a larger prospective observational study, elevated anxiety sensitivity measured via a brief assessment 1 week after experiencing a sexual assault was concurrently associated with PTSS at 1 week and prospectively predicted PTSS 6 weeks after the event, with small-to-medium effect sizes, η2p =.10, even after covarying for trauma history. Heightened anxiety sensitivity at 1-week postevent also interacted with time to predict anxiety and depression both before and after sexual assault, with medium-to-large effect sizes, ηp2 =.21–.24. This is consistent with research linking anxiety sensitivity to PTSS, but this was the first prospective study of which we are aware to demonstrate that anxiety sensitivity in the acute posttrauma period predicts PTSS among women who have recently experienced sexual assault. Future research should use the full Anxiety Sensitivity Index to replicate findings in a larger sample and explore whether targeting anxiety sensitivity could mitigate the development of PTSS in this vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1111-1120
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Volume33
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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