A brief cognitive-behavioral approach to reducing anxiety sensitivity decreases pain-related anxiety

Cogn Behav Ther. 2006;35(4):248-56. doi: 10.1080/16506070600898553.


Anxiety sensitivity (AS; fear of anxiety-related sensations) is a known risk factor for anxiety disorders and recently has been linked to pain disorders. The present study was guided by the hypothesis that a program designed to reduce AS levels might also result in a decrease in anxiety related to pain sensations. Female undergraduates, selected as either high or low in AS according to screening scores on the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI), were randomly assigned to participate in 3 1-hour, small group sessions of either cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT; psycho-education, cognitive restructuring, and interoceptive exposure) or a non-specific treatment (NST). Immediately prior to and following the intervention, participants completed the 20-item Pain Anxiety Symptoms Scale (PASS-20). Consistent with hypothesis, results revealed a 3-way interaction between AS group, intervention condition, and time on PASS-20 total scores. Only participants with high pre-morbid levels of AS assigned to the CBT condition showed a significant reduction in scores on the PASS-20 from pre- to post-treatment. Implications for improving CBT approaches for pain disorders are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Desensitization, Psychologic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Threshold
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Personality Inventory
  • Psychotherapy, Brief*
  • Psychotherapy, Group*