Discomfort Anxiety Versus Ego Anxiety

snakes. Their discomfort anxiety about their feelings helps keep them from confronting these feelings
and working through them.
A research study that possibly shows the explanatory and therapeutic value of the construct of
discomfort anxiety is that of Sutton-Simon (1979), who found some seemingly contradictory results that
may be explained by the use of this construct. In a study of subjects with (a) fears of heights, (b) social
anxiety, and (c) fears of heights plus social anxiety, she found that those with fears of heights did not
display significant irrationality on the Jones (1968) Irrational Beliefs Test; while those with social
anxiety did show significant irrationality on the IBT.
This would be expected, according to the construct posited in this chapter, since fear of heights would
presumably largely involve discomfort anxiety, while social anxiety would largely in-volve ego anxiety.
Sutton-Simon ob-served that ego anxiety may be cross-situational, while discomfort anxiety may be
specific to situations, although one person may experience discomfort anxiety in many situations. DA
may be “hooked up” to the particular cues of the situation, while EA may be more of a quality of a
Although the construct of discomfort anxiety presented here seems to have some new and useful
elements, it overlaps with several previous hypotheses about emotional disturbance and its treatment. Low
(1952) pointed out that disturbed individuals often get upset about their symptoms of anxiety and panic,
and that they may be helped by defining these symptoms as uncomfortable but not dangerous. Ellis (1962,
1979) emphasized secondary symptoms of disturbance, such as anxiety about anxiety, and stressed the
role of low frustration tolerance and short-range hedonism in clients’ disturbed behavior and their
resistance to changing this behavior. Weekes (1969, 1972, 1977) highlighted the importance of anxiety
about anxiety, especially in agoraphobia. Rehm (1977) offered a self-control model of depression that
stresses hedonic as well as ego factors in this disturbance. The present formulations go somewhat beyond
these other theories in developing a construct of discomfort anxiety and in distinguishing it more clearly
from ego anxiety.