Anxiety and its Effect on Sympathetic Nervous System Reactivity to Psychosocial Stress in Young Adults

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kayleigh R. Riker (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Suzanne Vrshek-Schallhorn

Abstract: Very few studies on sympathetic nervous system response to psychosocial stress take trait-like anxiety-related symptoms into account. Anxiety is characterized by unpleasant feelings of tension and apprehensive and worried thoughts. The present study reflects a secondary data analysis of an existing dataset to test hypotheses about trait anxiety’s effects on the sympathetic nervous system response to a social stress induction, specifically levels of the sympathetic biomarker salivary alpha amylase (sAA). A total of 135 individuals participated in one of three conditions of the Trier Social Stress Test (non-stressful control condition, intermediate difficulty condition, very difficult negative evaluative condition), a negative evaluative social stress test, and provided repeated saliva samples for analysis. In addition, participants completed three questionnaires capturing different aspects of trait-like anxiety: the Overall Anxiety Severity and Impairment Scale, the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale, and the Anxiety Sensitivity Index which captures anxiety about physiological sensations. Based on previous research, I hypothesize that high in trait-like anxiety would predict higher alpha amylase reactivity to increasingly challenging levels of the Trier Social Stress Test. While increasing severity of stress condition significantly predicted greater sAA reactivity, contrary to expectations, none of the anxiety measures significantly predicted sAA reactivity alone or in interaction with stressor severity. The study found that anxiety did not cause significant difference in sAA production.

Additional Information

Honors Project
Language: English
Date: 2021
anxiety, Trier Social Stress Test, social anxiety, SNS, stress

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