Do Self-Anxious Associations Affect Risk for Major Anxiety Issues?

Researchers from the University of Groningen, VU University Medical Centre, Leiden University Medical Centre and the University Medical Centre Groningen in the Netherlands, conducted a study on 2,981 individuals to determine if the presence of deliberate or automatic anxious thoughts predicted the development of anxiety issues. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 65 years old, and were comprised of healthy individuals, individuals with depressive symptoms and those who were in remittance from anxiety issues. The team assessed the individuals at baseline and again two years after to determine how self-anxious associations affected risk for anxiety.

The study revealed that after two years, the group who was in remittance from anxiety, and the depressed individuals, were more likely to develop anxiety when they experienced automatic self-anxious thoughts. “Furthermore, in all groups, deliberate self-anxious associations were predictive of the onset of an anxiety disorder between baseline and 2-year follow-up,” said the team. “Additionally, deliberate self-depressed associations were shown to be significantly associated with the onset of an anxiety disorder in healthy controls, individuals remitted from an anxiety disorder, and depressed individuals, but not in the more restricted depressed group.” They added that avoidance behavior also created an increased risk for anxiety in all of the participants.

“Evidently, when individuals perceive themselves as anxious on a more conscious, explicit level, their chance of developing an anxiety disorder later in time increases,” said the researchers. “Possibly, individuals’ anxious self-views together with their tendency to avoid fearful situations may increase their fear over time. By acting fearfully repeatedly over time, these individuals might actually become more and more anxious and get entangled in a vicious circle.” The team hopes these findings are only the beginning for further research into this problem. “An important next step would be to examine whether experimentally reducing self-anxious associations has beneficial effects on anxious symptoms, for example, by means of classical conditioning procedures,” they said.


Glashouwer, Klaske A., Peter J. De Jong, and Brenda W.J.H. Penninx. “Predictive Validity of Automatic Self-Associations for the Onset of Anxiety Disorders.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 120.3 (2011): 607-16. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jon.M


    August 27th, 2011 at 5:06 AM

    if i’m anxious within and think i cannot escape this anxiety then it would definitely make me more anxious when with people and i’ll be more prone to doing things wrong.tell yourself good things and that’s what will follow folks.

  • Janet


    August 27th, 2011 at 6:25 AM

    Have a hard time believing that this is something that can be controlled. When you are nervous or anxious it is always automatic, and there are some people who simply live with more of this in their lives than other people do. I know that there are some meds and exercises which can help you control this somewhat, but ultimately it all lies within the individual and how much of this they experience from within.

  • sebastian


    August 28th, 2011 at 3:18 AM

    anxiety touches one and all.some people are just better equipped to handle it in a better way.and those that cannot are called anxious.

    but I think we can develop the skills to handle anxiety through a lot of ways-meditating,exercising,talking to ourselves,attending self-help workshops etcetera.

  • Lisa.T


    August 28th, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    Not being a pessimist or anything but I have to agree with what Janet’s sayin’…Some things are not totally under our control and are a result of our genetics as well as what we pick up in our childhood years. And anxiety and reaction to stressful situations is one of those things.

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