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Fear of Anxiety May Lead to Depression

Some become so worried about what might happen that they develop other symptoms, researchers find

TUESDAY, Dec. 1, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Fear of anxiety may push "above-average" worriers into depression, a new study suggests.

"Anxiety sensitivity has been called a fear of fear," study author Andres Viana, a graduate student in psychology at Penn State, said in a news release. "Those with anxiety sensitivity are afraid of their anxiety because their interpretation is that something catastrophic is going to happen when their anxious sensations arise."

Viana and colleagues analyzed questionnaires completed by 94 volunteers, average age 19, who were moderate to high worriers. The questionnaires assessed worry, generalized anxiety and depression.

The responses showed that anxiety sensitivity significantly predicted depression symptoms. The researchers also found that two of the four issues that comprise anxiety sensitivity -- the "fear of cognitive dyscontrol" and the "fear of publically observable anxiety symptoms" -- specifically predicted depression symptoms. The two other issues -- the "fear of cardiovascular symptoms" and the "fear of respiratory symptoms" -- weren't significant predictors of depression.

"What we found was that the fear of the cognitive sensations typical of anxiety, like the inability to concentrate, was related to depression. And we also found that the link exists in people who are afraid of symptoms that could potentially have social implications or symptoms of anxiety that may be subject to negative evaluation," Viana said.

The study findings are published in the December issue of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders.

Several studies have linked anxiety sensitivity to depression, which suggests that treating anxiety sensitivity may help prevent and treat depression, Viana said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about anxiety disorders.

SOURCE: Penn State, news release, Dec. 1, 2009
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