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Panic patients reveal idiographic associations between anxiety symptoms and catastrophes in a semantic priming task

Raimund Schneider and Dietmar Schulte

Revue : Behaviour Research and Therapy

Abstract
In the present study, a modified semantic priming paradigm was used to test whether panic patients more strongly associate catastrophes with anxiety symptoms than nonclinical subjects. Subjects named catastrophic target words (e.g. infarction) and target words neutral to anxiety themes (e.g. weekend) that followed auditive prime sentences immediately (i.e.0 ms) or with a delay (i.e. 1500 ms). Prime sentences described the perception of anxiety symptoms (e.g. You feel tense) or sensations neutral to anxiety (You feel relaxed). Consistent with an earlier study [Schniering C.A., & Rapee, R.M. (1997). A test of the cognitive model of panic: Primed lexical decision in panic disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 11, 557?571] the two groups did not differ if semantic priming effects were calculated in the usual way, i.e. by averaging across identical stimuli for all subjects. As expected, however, panic patients demonstrated stronger semantic priming effects for catastrophes immediately following prime sentences if priming effects were calculated for idiographically selected stimuli. The latter result indicated stronger automatic associations between idiographic anxiety symptoms and catastrophes in panic patients consistent with the cognitive model of panic disorder (Clark, D.M. (1986). A cognitive approach to panic. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 24, 461?470). The restriction of stronger associations in panic patients to idiographic stimuli is explained from an evolutionary perspective.

Keywords: Panic disorder; Catastrophic cognitions; Semantic priming



Corresponding author. Tel.:+49 234 32 27689; fax:+49 234 32 14304.

Behaviour Research and Therapy, Volume 45, Issue 2 , February 2007, Pages 211-223

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