Effects of Anxiety Sensitivity, Disgust, and Intolerance of Uncertainty on the COVID Stress Syndrome: A Longitudinal Assessment of Transdiagnostic Constructs and the Behavioural Immune SystemTAGS: pandemics, covid-19 ·
Authored by: Michelle M. Paluszek, Aleiia J. N. Asmundson, Caeleigh A. Landry, Dean McKay, Steven Taylor, & Gordon J. G. Asmundson
People differ in their emotional (e.g., anxiety, worry), mental (e.g., repeated thoughts about the virus, prejudice towards foreigners), and behavioural (e.g., repeatedly checking for information about the virus) responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. These responses, also known as COVID stress, may differ because of differences in traits that are known to be related to mental health problems such as anxiety sensitivity and disgust. Anxiety sensitivity involves fearing symptoms of anxiety because of a belief that these symptoms are dangerous. Disgust involves being repulsed by something unpleasant. People vary in how likely they are to feel disgust (disgust proneness) and how intensely they react when disgusted (disgust sensitivity). This study looked at relationships between anxiety sensitivity, disgust sensitivity, and disgust proneness before the pandemic and COVID stress about two months into the pandemic.
Participants in the study were American and Canadian adults who completed a survey twice: once when the pandemic first started in North America and a second time about a month later. The survey included questions about anxiety sensitivity, disgust proneness, disgust sensitivity, and COVID stress. This study only looked at anxiety sensitivity for physical concerns, which is fear of the physical symptoms of anxiety (e.g., difficulty breathing, racing heart). The authors identified two important relationships between anxiety sensitivity, disgust proneness, and disgust sensitivity before the pandemic and COVID stress levels about two months into the pandemic. First, the authors found that people who had higher anxiety sensitivity for physical concerns, disgust proneness, and disgust sensitivity before the pandemic experienced more COVID stress compared to people with less anxiety sensitivity for physical concerns, disgust proneness, and disgust sensitivity before the pandemic. Second, the authors observed that disgust proneness amplified the relationship between anxiety sensitivity for physical concerns and COVID stress levels. That is, people with both high anxiety sensitivity for physical concerns and high disgust proneness before the pandemic had higher levels of COVID stress two months into the pandemic compared to people who were high on one trait but low on the other. The same pattern was also observed for disgust sensitivity.
The results of the study show that traits like anxiety sensitivity and disgust affect how people have responded emotionally, mentally, and behaviourally to the COVID-19 pandemic. Future researchers might look at modifying treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy to specifically reduce anxiety sensitivity for physical concerns, disgust sensitivity, and disgust proneness, which could reduce the distress people feel as a result of pandemics.Read Full Publication