Anxiety sensitivity: Unitary personality trait or domain-specific appraisals?

Michael J. Telch, Mark D. Shermis, John A. Lucas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


We tested the hypothesis that the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI) measures a unitary personality variable. College students (N = 840) were administered the ASI along with a questionnaire assessing panic and anxiety symptomatology. The ASI demonstrated adequate internal reliability (α = .82) and showed modest discrimination on two of three anxiety disorder indices (i.e., anxiety medication usage and panic history). Results of a principal components analysis with varimax rotation revealed a four-factor solution which explained 53.5% of the total variance. Our findings seriously challenge previous claims that the ASI measures a single factor. Rather, our data suggest that the ASI measures several loosely-related cognitive appraisal domains concerned with the anticipated negative consequences of anxiety. The four factors that emerged from our analysis were (a) concern about physical sensations, (b) concern about mental/cognitive incapacitation, (c) concern about loss of control, and (d) concern about heart/lung failure. It is concluded that the ASI is a convenient and reliable instrument for assessing perceived physical consequences of anxiety but that the instrument is lacking in its coverage of anxiety consequences related to social concerns. Implications of the findings for treatment are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-32
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of anxiety disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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