Boelen, P. A., Reijntjes, A., & Carleton, R. N. (2014). Intolerance of Uncertainty and Adult Separation Anxiety. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 43, 133-144.


Intolerance of uncertainty (IU)-the tendency to react negatively to situations that are uncertain-is involved in different anxiety disorders and depression. No studies have yet examined the association between IU and symptoms of adult separation anxiety disorder. However, it is possible that greater difficulties tolerating uncertainties that can occur in relationships with attachment figures inflate fears and worries about the consequences of being separated from these attachment figures. The current study examined the possible role of IU in symptoms of adult separation anxiety disorder, relative to its role in symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety, and depression, using self-reported data from 215 undergraduates (92% women) with elevated separation anxiety. Findings showed that IU was significantly associated with symptom-levels of separation anxiety disorder, GAD, OCD, social anxiety, and depression (rs > .30). IU continued to explain variance in OCD, social anxiety, and depression (but not GAD and separation anxiety) when controlling for the association of neuroticism, attachment anxiety, and attachment avoidance with these symptoms. Additional findings indicated that IU is more strongly associated with symptoms of GAD, OCD, and social anxiety than symptoms of adult separation anxiety disorder and depression.