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Reinforcement Sensitivity Moderates the Relationship Between Stressor Exposure and Anxiety Open Access

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According to the American College Health Association (2014), anxiety disorders affect 21.8% of college students, surpassing depressive disorders as the most widespread mental health concern in this population. Exposure to stressful life events (SLE) can greatly exacerbate the chances for the development of anxiety symptoms. However, this is not a pathognomonic association, and much more likely constitutes a diathesis-stress response. The Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory of Personality (RST) provides one potential diathesis-stress explanation for understanding the underlying mechanisms of anxiety disorders. In RST, individual's' response to threatening or aversive stimuli are facilitated by the Fight-Flight-Freeze System (FFFS). Based on the RST theory, it was hypothesized that FFFS and SLE scores would positively predict symptoms of anxiety.

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