Associations between dimensions of anxiety sensitivity and PTSD symptom clusters in active-duty police officers

Cogn Behav Ther. 2008;37(2):66-75. doi: 10.1080/16506070801969005.


Prior studies have shown that anxiety sensitivity (AS) plays an important role in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity. The purpose of this study was to evaluate associations between empirically supported PTSD symptom clusters (i.e. reexperiencing, avoidance, numbing, hyperarousal) and AS dimensions (i.e. psychological concerns, social concerns, somatic concerns). Participants were 138 active-duty police officers (70.7% female; mean age = 38.9 years; mean time policing = 173.8 months) who, as a part of a larger study, completed measures of trauma exposure, PTSD symptoms, AS, and depressive symptoms. All participants reported experiencing at least one event that they perceived as traumatic, and 44 (31.9%) screened positive for PTSD. Officers with probable PTSD scored significantly higher on AS total as well as the somatic and psychological concerns dimensional scores than did those without PTSD. As well, a higher percentage of officers with probable PTSD scored positively on the AS-derived Brief Screen for Panic Disorder (Apfeldorf et al., 1994) compared with those without PTSD. A series of regression analyses revealed that depressive symptoms, number of reported traumas, and AS somatic concerns were significant predictors of PTSD total symptom severity as well as severity of reexperiencing. Avoidance was predicted by depressive symptoms and AS somatic concerns. Only depressive symptoms were significantly predictive of numbing and hyperarousal cluster scores. These findings contribute to understanding the nature of association between AS and PTSD symptom clusters. Implications for the treatment of individuals having PTSD with and without panic-related symptomatology are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Panic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Panic Disorder / psychology*
  • Police*
  • Prevalence
  • Regression Analysis
  • Saskatchewan / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*