Childhood History of Anxiety in Adults with Panic Disorder: Association with Anxiety Sensitivity and Comorbidity

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Abstract

Converging lines of evidence indicate a nonspecific link between childhood anxiety disorders and adult panic disorder. Anxiety sensitivity, defined as the fear of anxiety symptoms, was hypothesized to be a potential mediating variable in this link. This study examined the association among childhood history of anxiety disorders, current anxiety symptoms, and anxiety sensitivity in a sample of 100 patients with panic disorder undergoing treatment. Fifty-five percent of the patients had histories of one or more childhood anxiety disorders. Despite the heterogeneity of symptoms and treatment interventions among these patients, a childhood history of anxiety was associated with comorbid anxiety conditions, agoraphobic avoidance, and anxiety sensitivity scores. Anxiety sensitivity was itself a significant predictor of current severity of illness, but a childhood history of anxiety was not. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that having an anxiety disorder during childhood is linked with patterns of anxiety and phobic avoidance in adulthood, including the level of anxiety sensitivity in patients with panic disorder.

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