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 GoodTherapy.org.
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