Category: Comorbidity - Anxiety and Other

Symposium

Affective Synchrony: Diagnostic and Situational Predictors of Dynamic Covariation of Anxiety and Depression Symptoms in Daily Life

Saturday, November 18
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: Aqua Salon E & F, Level 3, Aqua Level

Keywords: Comorbidity | Anxiety | Depression
Presentation Type: Symposium

Background: Symptoms of anxiety and depression share substantial variance, and GAD and major depression are commonly comorbid. Most studies assume that the anxiety-depression association is the same across individuals. However, the covariation between anxiety and depression may be an individual difference variable that differs from person to person. Past studies on affective synchrony showed that the relationship of positive and negative affect varies significantly between people (i.e., negative, flat, or positive depending on the person). Here, we examine the extent and predictors of affective synchrony of anxiety and depression symptoms. In a 5-week prospective study, we tested whether (1) the anxiety-depression link varies significantly between individuals, (2) higher GAD symptoms, but not depression, predicts higher anxiety-depression synchrony in daily life, and (3) whether situational features of stressors predict higher synchrony.
Method: Participants (= 111) were racially diverse (51% ethnic minority) and varied broadly in symptom levels, including a subset of individuals with diagnosable anxiety or depressive disorders (= 20), obtained via abbreviated ADIS-V interviews. Participants completed baseline GAD and depression measures, followed by five weeks of diaries assessing stressors and affect (3 records/week; 1,120 diary records).
Results: As hypothesized, the size of the daily anxiety-depression relationship varied significantly between individuals (= .04, SE = .01, p < .001), warranting tests to explain this variability. Cross-level interactions showed that baseline GAD symptoms, but not depression symptoms, predicted stronger daily anxiety-depression associations, consistent with research on comorbidity in GAD. Lastly, the anxiety-depression relationship was higher in both general stressors (unpredictable situations, blocked goals) and interpersonal stressors (others acting quarrelsome or selfish).
Conclusion: The present study extends the construct of affective synchrony to the context of anxiety and depression and has implications both for understanding GAD and situational influences on comorbidity.

Thane M. Erickson

Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology
Seattle Pacific University

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Affective Synchrony: Diagnostic and Situational Predictors of Dynamic Covariation of Anxiety and Depression Symptoms in Daily Life



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