Increasing evidence suggests that anxiety sensitivity, or the fear of anxiety itself, plays a significant role in heightening susceptibility to adverse reactions after experiencing trauma. Research specifically emphasizes the connection between the development and persistence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety sensitivity. For instance, a fear of anxiety is shown to exacerbate and predispose individuals to post-traumatic stress reactions.
Notably, a study reveals that anxiety sensitivity is a robust predictor of the severity of subsequent PTSD symptoms. This suggests that individuals with high levels of anxiety sensitivity are less likely to experience a reduction in their post-traumatic distress over time. Importantly, the relationship between PTSD and anxiety sensitivity is bidirectional, meaning that PTSD symptoms and anxiety sensitivity reinforce each other over time. Thus, those with greater post-traumatic distress are more likely to experience heightened anxiety sensitivity.
Longitudinal studies further indicate that sensitivity to anxiety and its symptoms represents a vulnerability factor for anxiety disorders. Additionally, research involving children and adolescent survivors of an earthquake underscores that anxiety sensitivity significantly predicts the development of PTSD following trauma.
Kilic, E. Z., Kilic, C., & Yilmaz, S. (2008). Is anxiety sensitivity a predictor of PTSD in children and adolescents? J Psychosom Res, 65(1), 81-86. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.02.013
Marshall, G. N., Miles, J. N., & Stewart, S. H. (2010). Anxiety sensitivity and PTSD symptom severity are reciprocally related: evidence from a longitudinal study of physical trauma survivors. J Abnorm Psychol, 119(1), 143-150. doi:10.1037/a0018009