An analogue study of panic onset
This study examined a model of panic onset specifying that a combination of stress, inefficacy, and insecurity with affective control may precipitate panic attacks. The main sample for this study consisted of 105 undergraduates who reported never having had a panic attack. After completing The Affective Control Scale, subjects were exposed to 45 trials of 90 decibel tone, an analogue for stress. All subjects were told that they could terminate the noise by discovering the correct button-pressing sequence. In reality, only half the subjects could terminate the tone. Immediately following the noise manipulation, all subjects underwent a series of body sensation induction procedures. Hierarchical regression was used to test the main hypotheses that greater fear of body sensations and greater anxiety would be associated with lack of control over the noise, insecurity about affective control, and their interaction. Hierarchical regression was also used to test the auxiliary hypotheses that greater fear of body sensations and greater anxiety would be associated with broader generality in attributions about failure to terminate the noise. The hypotheses were partially supported. Although inability to terminate the tone was not associated with greater fear of body sensations or higher anxiety levels, insecurity regarding affective control was. Broader generality in attributions regarding failure to end the noise was associated with greater higher anxiety, but not with greater fear of body sensations. The results of this analogue study suggest that people who develop panic attacks have premorbid difficulty with emotional regulation. That is, panickers are likely to have experienced discomfort with their ability to cope with a variety of emotions before developing fears of interoceptive sensations.