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19-06-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 6/2015

Cognitive Therapy and Research 6/2015

Tracing “Fearbola”: Psychological Predictors of Anxious Responding to the Threat of Ebola

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 6/2015
Shannon M. Blakey, Lillian Reuman, Ryan J. Jacoby, Jonathan S. Abramowitz


Serious illnesses such as Ebola are often highly publicized in the mass media and can be associated with varying levels of anxiety and compensatory safety behavior (e.g., avoidance of air travel). The present study investigated psychological processes associated with Ebola-related anxiety and safety behaviors during the outbreak in late 2014. Between October 30 and December 3, 2014, which encompassed the peak of concerns and of the media’s attention to this particular outbreak, 107 university students completed a battery of measures assessing fear of Ebola, performance of safety behaviors, factual knowledge of the virus, and psychological variables hypothesized to predict Ebola-related fear. We found that while our sample was generally not very fearful of contracting Ebola, the fear of this disease was correlated with general distress, contamination cognitions, disgust sensitivity, body vigilance, and anxiety sensitivity-related physical concerns. Regression analyses further indicated that anxiety sensitivity related to physical concerns and the tendency to overestimate the severity of contamination were unique predictors of both Ebola fear and associated safety behaviors. Implications for how concerns over serious illness outbreaks can be conceptualized and clinically managed are discussed.

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