Fear Reactivity to Head-Mounted Display Perceptual Illusion Challenges is Associated With Suicidality

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Suicide remains a public health concern with suicide rates showing a consistent increase over the last 20 years. Recent studies have found a relationship between anxiety sensitivity (i.e., the fear of anxiety related symptoms) and suicidality. Specifically, a relationship has been found between anxiety sensitivity cognitive concerns (ASCC) and suicidality. The knowledge around this relationship, however, has relied mostly on self-report measures. This study seeks to expand on the current literature by exploring the association between ASCC and suicidality, through the use of head-mounted display perceptual illusion challenges (e.g., using tactile sensations and mannequins to create illusions that the participant has switched bodies). A head-mounted display was used to elicit symptoms (e.g., depersonalization, derealization) related to ASCC in a sample of undergraduate students (N = 54). Suicidality and depression were measured by the Inventory of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms-2 (IDAS-II), anxiety sensitivity cognitive concerns by the Anxiety Sensitivity Index-3 (ASI-3), and distress by the Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS). Findings indicated that suicidality was associated with self-reported ASCC as well as the fear generated from the challenges. Furthermore, our results found that challenge-induced fear predicted suicidality scores above and beyond the traditional self-report measures of ASCC. The small sample size and low suicide risk of the current sample limits generalizations to more severe populations.

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Psychiatry Research

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