Research: DOWDEN and ALLEN,

Listed in Issue 32

Abstract

DOWDEN and ALLEN, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs USA studied the relationships between anxiety sensitivity, hyperventilation and emotional reactivity.

Background

Methodology

24 undergraduate women who scored within the top 15% and 24 within the bottom 15% on the Anxiety Sensitivity Index looked at randomly counterbalanced sets of 3 neutral and 3 dysphoric faces after having either hyperventilated or relaxed. The participants rated the change they experienced in Happiness, Sadness, Fear, Anger, Surprise, Disgust and Contempt after viewing each face.

Results

Women who were High Anxiety Sensitive (AS) reported significantly greater changes in six of the 7 emotions, despite pretreatment differences in somatically experienced anxiety having been covaried out. There were significant 3-way interactions found for participants self-rated changes in Fear and Surprise, and tendencies toward significance also emerged for Anger and Disgust. The pattern of interactions was identical for all four variables. Women who were low AS showed greater reductions in these four emotions when looking at neutral as opposed to dysphoric faces, whether they had hyperventilated or relaxed. Women who were high AS and who relaxed showed similar discriminative abilities. High AS women who hyperventilated reported no relative changes in emotional arousal to dysphoric or neutral faces.

Conclusion

The blunted discrimination shown by high AS women who hyperventilated suggests that when these people are in a physiologically challenged state they may be less responsive to early warning indicators of social distress shown by others which may lead them to experience subsequent interpersonal difficulties.

References

Dowden SL and Allen GJ. Relationships between anxiety sensitivity, hyperventilation, and emotional reactivity to displays of facial emotions. J Anxiety Disord 11(1): 63-75. Jan-Feb 1997.

Comment

How we feel has a profound effect upon our own health, and also upon our interactions with others. All of the above research studies explore different facets of the mind/body connections and suggest various techniques which may be helpful to individual patients, but also for their families and friends, carers and practitioners. These findings have profound implications for so many aspects of our personal and professional lives.

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