The relationship between anxiety sensitivity and obsessive-compulsive symptom dimensions

Michael G. Wheaton, Brittain Mahaffey, Kiara R. Timpano, Noah C. Berman, Jonathan S. Abramowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Background and objectives: Anxiety sensitivity (AS), the tendency to fear arousal-related body sensations based on beliefs that they are dangerous, is a cognitive vulnerability factor for certain anxiety symptoms such as panic and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Very little research, however, has examined the relationship between AS and obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms, which was the objective of the current research. Methods: We administered dimensional measures of AS and OC symptoms to a large sample of undergraduate students (N = 636). We also included measures of general distress and cognitive distortions related to OCD (i.e., obsessive beliefs) as control variables. Results: Regression analyses indicated that AS was predictive of OC symptoms even after controlling for general distress and obsessive beliefs. In addition, the three domains of AS (physical, social, and cognitive concerns) were differentially associated with the four dimensions of OC symptoms (contamination, responsibility for harm, symmetry, and unacceptable thoughts). Limitations: Our findings are based on a non-clinical student sample and their generalization to OCD requires replication with a sample of OCD patients. Conclusions: These results provide preliminary evidence that AS plays a role in OC symptoms. Implications for clinical practice and for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)891-896
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012


  • Anxiety sensitivity
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • OC symptom dimensions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'The relationship between anxiety sensitivity and obsessive-compulsive symptom dimensions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this