Date of Award

12-1-2018

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Kertz, Sarah

Abstract

Transdiagnostic treatments have received increasing attention due to their ability to efficiently reduce distress and dysfunction caused by psychological disorders by targeting vulnerabilities shared across disorders. Anxiety sensitivity, or the fear of somatic symptoms of anxiety, is one such transdiagnostic factor. Treatment-seeking samples endorse greater anxiety sensitivity than the general population. One effective treatment for anxiety sensitivity is interoceptive exposure; however limited research exists on the optimal delivery of interoceptive exposure including the use of stimulus variability. The currents study addressed this gap by comparing the efficacy of using two stimuli versus one stimulus versus breath counting during interoceptive exposure for decreasing anxiety sensitivity. The study tested three related hypotheses: 1) conducting interoceptive exposure exercises using two stimuli (straw breathing and hyperventilation) would result in greater reduction in anxiety sensitivity (ASI-R respiratory subscale and ASI-3) from baseline to post-exposure than exposure exercises using one stimulus due to increased stimulus variability and intensity. 2) ASI-R reduction would be mediated by pre-exposure condition to post-exposure condition changes in fear toleration and violation of fear expectancies. 3) Treatment credibility and acceptability would not differ between conditions. The current study found that the two stimuli condition produced greater change in fear ratings and fear expectancy compared to the one stimulus condition and the control. Furthermore, the one stimulus condition did not differ from the control in change in fear ratings or fear expectancy. Despite greater changes in fear ratings and expectancy, there were no significant differences between the one stimulus and two stimuli condition on treatment credibility/expectancy or acceptability. Lastly, there was not an effect of condition by time or time on anxiety sensitivity reduction.

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