Fearful responding to repeated CO2 inhalation: A preliminary investigation


In an effort to explore factors which maintain fear of physical sensations, repeated administration of 35% C02 was used with college students scoring high and low on the Anxiety Sensitivity Index. Half of each group was administered 12 CO2 trials, while the other half received 9 CO2 trials, followed by a dishabituation trial (Trial 10) and 2 more CO2 administrations (Trials 11 and 12). Measures included subjective anxiety, heart rate, skin conductance, and number of panic symptoms reported. Results indicated a nonsignificant trend for the High ASI group to show increased pre-inhalation anxiety across trials, while the Low ASI group showed a rapid reduction in pre-inhalation anxiety. Post-inhalation skin conductance mirrored this pattern, although rapid reduction in post-inhalation heart rate was observed. Overall, the High ASI participants showed a notable lack of fear reduction across trials. Results are discussed in light of sensitization as a factor contributing to anticipatory anxiety, with implications for understanding the etiology and maintenance of Panic Disorder.

Publication Title

Behaviour Research and Therapy