The Role of Anxiety Sensitivity In Mental Health Outcomes Among Trauma-Exposed College Students and Young Adults During Covid-19



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Emerging literature has documented the substantial negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of college students and young adults. Although extant work has shown that those with prior trauma exposure have poorer mental health outcomes during infectious disease outbreaks, broadly, substantially less work has focused on putative mechanisms underlying these relations during COVID-19. Therefore, the current study conducted a longitudinal analysis examining the mediating effect of one such vulnerability factor, anxiety sensitivity (AS; the fear of behaviors or sensations related to experiencing anxiety) on the association between baseline PTSD symptom severity and fear of COVID-19, worry about COVID-19, panic, social anxiety, general depression, and suicidality during COVID-19. Participants were 41 trauma-exposed college students and young adults (68.3% female, Mage = 25.39, SD = 6.66). Results indicated that the relationship between baseline PTSD symptom severity and fear of COVID-19 and panic was mediated by AS; however, the same was not true for worry about COVID-19, social anxiety, depression, or suicidality. The current study provides novel empirical evidence that AS is an important transdiagnostic vulnerability factor for trauma-exposed individuals that longitudinally predicts COVID-19 specific and general mental health facets, which may be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such findings provide additional evidence for the importance of targeting AS in the content of treatment for trauma, stress, and related disorders in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.



Anxiety sensitivity, COVID-19, Fear and worry, College students, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)