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Investigating the role of negative and positive emotional avoidance in the relation between generalized anxiety disorder and depression symptom severity (Pages 103-108)

Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science (JCBS)

Volume 16, April 2020, Pages 103-108


Alex H. Buhk, Mary J. Schadegg, Laura J. Dixon, Matthew T. Tull


Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a chronic disorder characterized by excessive and difficult-to-control worry, has been shown to be associated with heightened risk for depression. However, despite the high rate of co-occurrence between GAD and depression, few studies have examined factors that might account for this comorbidity. Contemporary models of GAD suggest that the avoidance of positive- and negative-valenced emotions may be particularly worthwhile to investigate in this regard. Therefore, this study examined the extent with which positive and negative emotional avoidance explain the relationship between GAD and depression symptom severity. Participants were adults (N = 114) seeking treatment at an anxiety disorders clinic. Upon intake into the clinic, participants completed a variety of self-report measures assessing the constructs of interest in this study. Results revealed that GAD severity was associated with depression symptom severity through the avoidance of positive emotion, but not via negative emotional avoidance. Specifically, greater GAD severity was associated with greater positive emotional avoidance which, in turn, was associated with greater depression symptom severity. Consistent with the contrast avoidance model of GAD, findings suggest positive emotions may be avoided in an effort to maintain homeostasis and prevent negative emotional contrasts, which may increase the likelihood of depressive symptoms.


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