Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 661–673 | Cite as

The Contribution of Anxiety Sensitivity to Obsessive–Compulsive and Anxiety Symptoms in a Naturalistic Treatment Setting

  • Antonia N. Kaczkurkin
  • Hayley Fitzgerald
  • Jeremy Tyler
  • Anu Asnaani
Original Article


Anxiety sensitivity (AS), a fear of arousal-related sensations, is prevalent in a number of disorders. We examined the relationship between internalizing symptoms and the anxiety sensitivity components of physical, social, and cognitive concerns in a sample of 165 patients seeking treatment in a clinic specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety-related disorders. Social anxiety symptoms were associated with greater social concerns. Cognitive concerns were characteristic of both depression and generalized anxiety symptoms, suggesting these two classes of symptoms may share AS symptomatology. Physical concerns were specifically related to panic symptoms. Although obsessive–compulsive symptoms were related to cognitive concerns using univariate regression, these symptoms were not strongly related to any of the anxiety sensitivity components when the correlation between disorders was taken into account. Thus, within the internalizing symptoms studied here, the anxiety sensitivity domains were most relevant to panic, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and depressive symptoms and less related to obsessive–compulsive symptoms.


Anxiety sensitivity Internalizing symptoms Anxiety disorders Obsessive–compulsive disorder Depression 



The authors would like to acknowledge the creators of REDCap (Harris et al. 2009), the data acquisition program used to collect the data analyzed in the present study. This software reduced burden on patients by allowing them to provide responses at home, and facilitated easier and more accurate access of such treatment outcome data than traditional paper and pencil formats. The authors would also like to express their sincerest appreciation to Kathy Benhamou and Jody Zhong, the research assistants who assisted heavily on the creation and maintenance of the REDCap database, as well as coordinated data collection and patient reminders. In addition, we would like to thank the Director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety (CTSA), Dr. Edna Foa, who allowed us to collect this important data from patients seeking treatment at the CTSA. We would also like to thank all the patients seeking treatment at our center who were willing for us to analyze their de-identified data in order to better understand the construct of anxiety sensitivity.


Support to ANK was provided by a NIMH Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (grant number: R01MH107703), a NARSAD Young Investigator Award, and a Penn PROMOTES Research on Sex and Gender in Health grant through a Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) grant (K12 HD085848) at the University of Pennsylvania.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Dr. Antonia N. Kaczkurkin, Ms. Hayley Fitzgerald, Dr. Jeremy Tyler, and Dr. Anu Asnaani declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

This study was approved by the University of Pennsylvania Institutional Review Board. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryCenter for the Treatment and Study of AnxietyPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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