Anxiety Sensitivity Index

Ages: 12 & Up. Time: 2-3 mins.

  • Assesses Panic Disorder
  • Assesses Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Assesses Dual Diagnosis (substance abuse & anxiety disorder)
  • Prospectively predicts panic attacks
  • After therapy predicts relapse vs. durability of improvement
  • More than 1,400 scientific articles
  • Translated into numerous languages

In 1985 Steven Reiss and Richard McNally put forth the concept of anxiety sensitivity, or the idea that anxiety is not equally motivating to all people. People show important individual differences in how they react to anxious arousal. Most people who notice they are anxious - they may notice a pounding heart, sweaty palms, or the "shakes" -- expect the anxiety to dissipate when the situation that is worrying them is resolved. A small percentage of people, however, misinterpret the signs of anxious arousal as threatening. These people believe that a pounding heart can lead to a heart attack, or that shaking is a sign of mental illness. This group is said to have "high anxiety sensitivity." More than 1,400 peer-reviewed validity studies have shown that high anxiety sensitivity is linked to panic attacks, Panic Disorder, and Posttraumatic Stress. These studies have played a major role in our scientific understanding of the cognitive aspects of anxiety disorders.

Anxiety sensitivity has become an established concept. It was the subject of a national press conference co-sponsored by the American Psychological Association and the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy. When we evaluate anxiety conditions, we need to consider not just the amount of anxiety shown by the client, but also the client's sensitivity to anxiety. Clients with a propensity to panic when aroused have significantly less tolerance for anxious situations than do other clients.

The ASI has been shown to prospectively predict military recruits who are likely to panic under the stress of basic training.

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