Targeting Anxiety Sensitivity as a Prevention Strategy

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Psychopathology in general and anxiety disorders in particular represent massive public health burdens due to their prevalence and chronicity, which results in substantial impairment across the lifespan. A multifaceted approach is needed to effectively address issues that require increased attention to prevention efforts. Indeed, there have been numerous calls to increase efforts to address mental health problems from a preventive perspective (e.g., American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1990). In a review of prevention for anxiety and related psychopathology, Feldner and Zvolensky concluded that most existing prevention efforts fail to investigate the effects of modifying specific risk factors on the incidence of anxiety psychopathology. Instead, prevention programs for anxiety disorders have typically modified existing treatment strategies rather than targeting a specific risk factor or collection of theorized risk factors. Thus, prevention approaches tend to be symptom driven versus being based on theoretical models of psychopathology. These authors argued that there are several key reasons to incorporate risk-factor research into prevention programs but foremost is that prevention programs designed to target specific risk factors could be enormously helpful in providing causal tests of putative risk factors and thereby directly inform our understanding of these conditions. Work on anxiety sensitivity represents one such opportunity for risk factor focused preventative efforts.

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The Clinician's Guide to Anxiety Sensitivity Treatment and Assessment

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