Anxiety sensitivity as a transdiagnostic risk factor for trajectories of adverse posttraumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae in the AURORA study

J Psychiatr Res. 2022 Dec:156:45-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2022.09.027. Epub 2022 Sep 27.


Anxiety sensitivity, or fear of anxious arousal, is cross-sectionally associated with a wide array of adverse posttraumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae, including symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, pain, and somatization. The current study utilizes a large-scale, multi-site, prospective study of trauma survivors presenting to emergency departments. Hypotheses tested whether elevated anxiety sensitivity in the immediate posttrauma period is associated with more severe and persistent trajectories of common adverse posttraumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae in the eight weeks posttrauma. Participants from the AURORA study (n = 2,269 recruited from 23 emergency departments) completed self-report assessments over eight weeks posttrauma. Associations between heightened anxiety sensitivity and more severe and/or persistent trajectories of trauma-related symptoms identified by growth mixture modeling were analyzed. Anxiety sensitivity assessed two weeks posttrauma was associated with severe and/or persistent posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, pain, and somatic symptoms in the eight weeks posttrauma. Effect sizes were in the small to medium range in multivariate models accounting for various demographic, trauma-related, pre-trauma mental health-related, and personality-related factors. Anxiety sensitivity may be a useful transdiagnostic risk factor in the immediate posttraumatic period identifying individuals at risk for the development of adverse posttraumatic neuropsychiatric sequelae. Further, considering anxiety sensitivity is malleable via brief intervention, it could be a useful secondary prevention target. Future research should continue to evaluate associations between anxiety sensitivity and trauma-related pathology.

Keywords: Anxiety; Anxiety sensitivity; Depression; Pain; Posttraumatic stress; TZrauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Pain*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors