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Depression Variability Predicts Later Anxiety for Those with Depressive Disorders


Research has shown that greater depression variability leads to greater depression symptom elevation. Nevertheless, because depression variability is theorized to reflect deficits in one’s ability to regulate negative emotions (Roberts & Gotlib, 1997), it is likely that this dysregulation could have ramifications for other negative emotions. Further, depression predicts later anxiety at both the symptom and disorder level based on the results of a recent meta-analysis (Jacobson & Newman, 2017). However, no work has examined the impact of depression variability on later anxiety elevation. Given the prospective relationships between depression and later anxiety, research is needed to determine whether depression variability predicts later anxiety symptom elevation in controls and those with depressive disorders. Using data from an ecological momentary assessment where participants (N = 394) were prompted once per hour for one week, participants completed measures of momentary anxiety and depression. The probability of acute change of momentary depressed mood for each day was used to predict later anxiety and depression symptom elevation across the week. For participants with depressive disorders (N = 63), depression variability significantly predicted greater anxiety symptom elevation one to three days later (d = 0.39). However, the results between depression variability and later anxiety elevation were not significant across controls (N = 331). Confirming prior theory about the broad impact of depression variability, these results suggest that increased depression dysregulation may be a short-term maintenance factor for anxiety for those with depressive disorders.

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