Anxiety Sensitivity in African-American Adolescents: Evidence of Symptom Specificity of Anxiety Sensitivity Components

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To examine the specificity of components of anxiety sensitivity (phrenophobia, fear of cardiovascular sensations, and fear of unsteadiness) to anxiety and depression in a sample of African-American adolescents.


Participants were 527 African-American adolescents (238 females, mean age 13.8 years) who were originally recruited as first graders in 1993 to 1994 for participation in the second-generation Johns Hopkins Prevention Intervention Research Center trials. Youths completed measures of anxiety sensitivity and anxious and depressive symptoms in the spring of 2001. Associations between anxiety sensitivity and depression and anxiety were examined using hierarchical linear regressions.


Anxiety sensitivity as a unitary construct was positively associated with symptoms of anxiety after adjusting for symptoms of depression. Fear of unsteadiness showed specificity to anxiety after adjusting for depression and phrenophobia. Phrenophobia was positively associated with anxiety and depression, after adjusting for the other symptom and fears of physical sensations.


Specificity of anxiety sensitivity to anxiety in a sample of African-American adolescents furthers understanding of the nature of anxiety sensitivity in this group and the potential roles of components of anxiety sensitivity in the development of psychopathology in general.

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