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Exploring the relationship between positive and negative emotional avoidance and anxiety symptom severity: The moderating role of attentional control

Authors
Publisher
Elsevier Ltd
Volume
45
Issue
3
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2014.04.006
Keywords
  • Emotional Avoidance
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Attentional Control
  • Anxiety
  • Positive Emotion
Disciplines
  • Design

Abstract

Abstract Background and objectives Emotional avoidance has been found to be associated with higher levels of anxiety. However, no research to date has differentiated between the avoidance of positive and negative emotions in relation to anxiety. Additionally, no studies have examined the extent to which attentional control moderates the relation between the avoidance of emotions and anxiety. Thus, the purpose of this study was to (a) clarify relations between both positive and negative emotional avoidance and anxiety, and (b) examine attentional control as a moderator of the relations between both positive and negative emotional avoidance and anxiety. Methods A community sample of adults (N = 93) completed a series of questionnaires, as well as a laboratory-based measure of attentional control. Results Greater avoidance of both positive and negative emotions was associated with higher levels of anxiety. Additionally, attentional control moderated the relationship between negative (but not positive) emotional avoidance and anxiety. Specifically, the avoidance of negative emotions was associated with higher levels of anxiety for those with lower attentional control. Limitations Limitations include a cross-sectional design, use of self-report measures, and the examination of hypotheses within a non-clinical sample. Conclusion Findings are consistent with a growing body of research demonstrating the moderating role of attentional control in the relation between risk factors and negative outcomes. Findings also suggest that empirically-based treatment approaches that contain attention-based components may be beneficial for emotionally avoidant individuals with poor attentional control abilities.

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