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Anxiety Stress Coping. 2016 Nov;29(6):685-98. doi: 10.1080/10615806.2016.1163544. Epub 2016 Mar 29.

Trait anxiety and attenuated negative affect differentiation: a vulnerability factor to consider?

Author information

1
a Department of Psychological Sciences , Kent State University , Kent , OH , USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Describing emotional experiences using distinct terms, or affect differentiation, has been associated with emotion regulation and adaptive behavior under stress. There is little data, however, examining the association between differentiation and dispositional factors underlying psychopathology. The current study examines the association between differentiation and trait anxiety (TA) given prior evidence of cognitive biases in TA relevant to higher order processing of emotional experiences.

DESIGN:

We examined cross-sectionally, via lab-based repeated assessment, the association between differentiation of negative and positive experiences and TA.

METHODS:

Two hundred twenty-two adults completed an emotion reactivity task including repeated assessments of affect. We hypothesized that individuals higher in trait anxiety (HTA) would have greater difficulty differentiating their experiences.

RESULTS:

HTA individuals exhibited lower levels of negative affect (NA) differentiation even when controlling for depression. Although negative emotion intensity was consistently associated with lower differentiation, this did not account for the influence of HTA on differentiation.

CONCLUSIONS:

These data suggest that HTA individuals have greater difficulty differentiating negative emotions, regardless of negative emotion intensity and depression. As HTA is common to many emotional disorders; this evidence suggests that poor differentiation may also be an important transdiagnostic consideration in models of risk and of affective disease.

KEYWORDS:

Affect; differentiation; emotion; regulation; risk; trait anxiety

PMID:
26961095
DOI:
10.1080/10615806.2016.1163544
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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