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Meaning in life buffers the impact of experiential avoidance on anxiety (Pages 192-198)

Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science (JCBS)

Volume 16, April 2020, Pages 192-198


Kerry C. Kelso, Todd B. Kashdan, Aslihan Imamoğlu, Ameena Ashraf


Experiential avoidance (EA), or the unwillingness to remain in contact with aversive thoughts, feelings, and sensations, has been implicated as a risk and maintenance factor of anxiety. Yet research is mixed on the extent to which EA contributes to symptom exacerbation. Cross-sectional studies suggest EA has a large influence on anxiety whereas longitudinal findings suggest EA predicts small increases in distress. Inversely related to EA and anxiety, meaning in life (MIL) entails making sense of and finding worth in one's experiences while also pursuing life aims. By facilitating a person's perceived management of distress, MIL is expected to prevent EA from making anxiety worse. Participants (n = 317) completed measures of EA, MIL, and anxiety at baseline and 3–4 months later. The influence of EA and the moderating effect of MIL on anxiety were examined cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Longitudinally, MIL changed the relationship between EA and changes in anxiety, such that when MIL was high, EA no longer predicted increased symptoms. Findings suggest that although EA is a vulnerability for anxiety, MIL buffers the small effect it has on later distress.


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