Effects of anxiety sensitivity, disgust, and intolerance of uncertainty on the COVID stress syndrome: a longitudinal assessment of transdiagnostic constructs and the behavioural immune system

Authored By: Michelle M. Paluszek, Aleiia J. N. Asmundson, Caeleigh A. Landry, Steven Taylor, and Gordon J.G. Asmundson

Experiences of fear and increases in worry have become increasingly common in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and often lead to adverse outcomes in response to heightened levels of stress. Research on life in a pandemic world supports relationships between feelings of anxiousness, disgust, and low tolerance of uncertainty and pandemic stressors. The purpose of this research was to explore the effects of pre-COVID levels of physical anxiety symptoms, the tendency to respond to emotional situations with the expression of disgust, and intolerance of uncertainty during an ongoing pandemic such as COVID-19. Survey data was collected from over 3000 Canadian and American adults. This research illustrated that greater concern for physical behaviours associated with anxiety and vulnerability for feeling or expressing disgust was associated with more severe COVID stress syndrome. Sensitivity to anxiety-related behaviours was increased with disgust-related responses; however, sensitivity was not impacted by fear of COVID-related danger or potential for disease contamination. No relationships were identified between concern for anxiety-related behaviours or disgust and individuals’ tolerance of uncertainty. The potential impact of treatment interventions like cognitive behavioural therapy for pandemic-related stressors was also examined.

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