Measuring Symptom-Specific Panic-Relevant Associations Using Single-Target Implicit Association Tests
Blackwell SE., Wilhelm FH., Reinecke A., Margraf J., Woud ML.
Background: According to major cognitive accounts of panic disorder, bodily sensations can lead to automatic activation of an associative fear network, potentially triggering a cascade of cognitive, emotional, and physiological responses culminating in a panic attack. However, the evidence for the automatic associations assumed by these models is mixed. This may reflect the heterogeneous nature of panic disorder, in that the relative importance of different bodily sensations and symptoms varies between individuals. The current study aimed to test this possibility via measuring the associations between three different sets of panic symptoms (cognitive, respiratory, cardiac) and scores on three symptom-specific single target implicit association tests (STIATs). Methods: A total of 226 unselected female participants aged 18–35 completed the STIATs as well as questionnaires assessing panic symptoms and related measures in a web-based study. Results: Only limited evidence was found to support the idea of specific associations between STIAT stimuli sets and their related panic symptoms. Exploratory analyses indicated that there were only associations between STIAT scores and panic-relevant questionnaires amongst those participants who had experienced a panic attack in the previous 6 months. Conclusions: The results have implications for measuring panic-relevant associations and understanding their role in panic disorder.