The Role of Fear-Avoidance Cognitions and Behaviors in Patients with Chronic Tinnitus
The current study investigated the role of fear-avoidance—a concept from chronic pain research—in chronic tinnitus. A self-report measure the “Tinnitus Fear-Avoidance Cognitions and Behaviors Scale (T-FAS)” was developed and validated. Furthermore, the role of fear-avoidance behavior as mediator of the relationship between anxiety sensitivity and tinnitus handicap was investigated. From a clinical setting, N = 373 patients with chronic tinnitus completed questionnaires assessing tinnitus handicap (Tinnitus Handicap Inventory), anxiety, depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), anxiety sensitivity (Anxiety Sensitivity Index-3), personality factors (Big Five Inventory-10), and fear-avoidance. To analyze the psychometric properties, principal component analysis with parallel component extraction and correlational analyses were used. To examine a possible mediating effect, hierarchical regression analysis was applied. The principal component analysis resulted in a three-factor solution: Fear-avoidance Cognitions, Tinnitus-related Fear-Avoidance Behavior, and Ear-related Fear-Avoidance Behavior. Internal consistency was satisfactory for the total scale and all subscales. High correlations between tinnitus-related handicap scales, depressive and anxiety symptoms, and the T-FAS were found, whereas associations with personality factors were low. Moreover, results indicate a significant partial mediation of fear-avoidance behaviors in the relationship between anxiety sensitivity and the cognitive dimension of tinnitus handicap. Results show that fear-avoidance behavior plays an important role in tinnitus handicap. More attention should be paid to this concept in research and clinical practice of psychotherapy for chronic tinnitus.