Category: Adult Anxiety

PS2- #A14 - Am I Anxious?: Implicit and Explicit Self-Concepts of Anxiety Predict Symptom Acknowledgment

Friday, Nov 17
9:45 AM – 10:45 AM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Adult Anxiety | Cognitive Processes | Cognitive Schemas / Beliefs

If you know that you are dealing with an anxiety disorder, you may take steps to manage your anxiety or seek mental health treatment. However, if you are suffering from anxiety symptoms but do not realize it, you may be less likely to seek information about alleviating your symptoms. The present study investigates implicit (relatively more automatic and less consciously controlled) and explicit (relatively more strategic and consciously endorsed) self-concepts of anxiety (i.e., the extent to which individuals associate themselves with being anxious or calm) and how these relate to self-reported symptoms of anxiety and acknowledgment of struggling with anxiety as a disorder in a large, online sample (N=6216). Participants completed an anxiety Brief Implicit Association Test (BIAT) measuring self+anxious implicit associations, and self-report questions regarding their anxiety symptoms (e.g., trembling hands, feeling scared), explicit self+anxious associations, and whether they have an anxiety disorder (yes or no).

Results revealed that 10% of participants said they do not have an anxiety disorder while also scoring in the severe/extremely severe range on the symptom questionnaire (which suggests clinically significant levels of anxiety), suggesting that individuals may not understand their symptoms as indicative of an anxiety disorder, or may rely on more information than their symptoms alone to decide if they have an anxiety disorder. Direct logistic regression analysis indicated greater symptom severity (Wald Χ2=568.36), stronger explicit (Wald Χ2=260.20) and implicit (Wald Χ2=31.05) self+anxious associations significantly uniquely predicted (ps < .001) whether someone said they have an anxiety disorder when entered into a single model (Nagelkerke R2=.39, 76.2% of cases correctly identified). Results suggest that both implicit as well as explicit self-concepts of mental health may influence one’s ability or willingness to endorse having a mental health disorder. Implications for consumer education and anxiety treatment will be discussed. 

Alexandra J. Werntz

graduate student
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia

Diheng Zhang

University of Virginia

Emily Geyer

University of Virginia

Bethany A. Teachman

University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia