The role of experiential avoidance in the relation between anxiety disorder diagnoses and future physical health symptoms in a community sample of young adult women

Christopher R. Berghoff, Matthew T. Tull, David DiLillo, Terri Messman-Moore, Kim L. Gratz

Individuals diagnosed with an anxiety disorder report more physical health problems than those without an anxiety disorder. Few studies have examined the relation of anxiety disorders to later physical health symptoms, or the processes that may explain this relation. One process of interest is experiential avoidance (EA), which is commonly reported in populations characterized by high anxiety and often leads to health-compromising behaviors. The present study examined the relations between anxiety disorder diagnostic status, EA, and physical health symptoms in a community sample of young adult women. Results revealed a significant association between an anxiety disorder diagnosis and physical health problems four months later. Furthermore, levels of EA accounted for this relation. Findings highlight the potential utility of targeting EA as a method for improving health outcomes among individuals with anxiety disorders.

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