Category: Adult Anxiety
Background: The hopelessness-helplessness attributional style describes the role of perceived uncontrollability in the development and maintenance of anxiety symptoms (Alloy, Kelly, Mineka, Clements, 1990). As a function of problems in the early attachment process (Schore & Schore, 2008), emotion dysregulation with a deficiency in positive affect has also been found to underlie psychopathology (Hofmann, Sawyer, Fang, & Asnaani, 2012). While attributional style and emotion regulation have been found to impact the development of anxiety, the mediating role of Low Positive Emotions is largely unexplored. The current study sought to investigate this relationship in a large Dutch sample.
Methods: Participants (n= 2150) were adult individuals recruited from the general population of the Netherlands. As part of a larger standardization project, participants completed the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2-Restructured Form (MMPI-2-RF), Dutch version. Mediation analyses were conducted using the raw scores of the following MMPI-2-RF scales: 1) Low Positive Emotions, 2) Hopelessness-Helplessness and 3) Anxiety.
Results: As hypothesized, the relationships between Hopelessness-Helplessness and Anxiety (B = .18, p < .001) and Hopelessness-Helplessness and Low Positive Emotions (B = 1.1040, p < .001) were significant and positive. Furthermore, results showed a significant partial mediation effect of Low Positive Emotions on the relationship between Hopelessness-Helplessness and Anxiety (B = .02, 95% BCI [0.0047 – 0.0293]), suggesting that higher scores on Low Positive Emotions are partly accountable for higher levels of Anxiety.
Discussion: The current findings elucidate the mediating role of positive affect in the relationship between Hopelessness-Helplessness and anxiety. These results emphasize the deficiency in positive affect in individuals with anxiety and the importance of targeting said deficiency during treatment. Given the study population, these conclusions do not only apply to patients who meet categorical criteria for anxiety disorders as defined by the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but to a broader spectrum of anxiety and psychopathology in a general population. Furthermore, results from this study contribute to the empirical understanding and clinical application of the MMPI-2-RF, Dutch version.