Anxiety Sensitivity Prospectively Predicts Increased Acute Posttraumatic Stress and Related Symptoms After Sexual Assault Academic Article uri icon


  • Anxiety sensitivity is a potential risk factor for posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and has been hypothesized to contribute to PTSS development. However, few prospective studies have evaluated whether anxiety sensitivity predicts PTSS. In a subsample of 48 women sexual assault survivors enrolled as part of a larger prospective observational study, elevated anxiety sensitivity measured via a brief assessment 1 week after experiencing a sexual assault was concurrently associated with PTSS at 1 week and prospectively predicted PTSS 6 weeks after the event, with small-to-medium effect sizes, η2 p = .10, even after covarying for trauma history. Heightened anxiety sensitivity at 1-week postevent also interacted with time to predict anxiety and depression both before and after sexual assault, with medium-to-large effect sizes, ηp 2 = .21- .24. This is consistent with research linking anxiety sensitivity to PTSS, but this was the first prospective study of which we are aware to demonstrate that anxiety sensitivity in the acute posttrauma period predicts PTSS among women who have recently experienced sexual assault. Future research should use the full Anxiety Sensitivity Index to replicate findings in a larger sample and explore whether targeting anxiety sensitivity could mitigate the development of PTSS in this vulnerable population.

author list (cited authors)

  • Short, N. A., Lechner, M., Bell, K., Black, J., Buchanan, J., Ho, J., ... McLean, S. A.

publication date

  • January 1, 2020 11:11 AM