On SAGE Insight: What lies beyond neuroticism? An examination of the unique contributions of social-cognitive vulnerabilities to internalizing disorders

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There is strong interest in a number of relatively stable socialcognitive vulnerabilities (also called clinical traits) that are associated with psychopathology. these vulnerabilities describe individual differences in thoughts, emotional experiences, and behaviors that are hypothesized to be related to the onset and/or maintenance of internalizing symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. the aim of this study was to examine how social-cognitive vulnerabilities fit into the broader, well-established structure of normal personality, and to determine their unique contributions (beyond one another and beyond neuroticism facets) in accounting for variance in multiple internalizing disorders in a clinical sample.


Extensive research has identified various social-cognitive vulnerabilities for internalizing disorders. However, few studies have assessed multiple disorders simultaneously, so it is unclear whether these vulnerabilities are transdiagnostic or specific risk factors. Their unique associations with disorders are also uncertain, given that they correlate strongly with neuroticism and one other. Psychiatric outpatients completed self-report and interview measures of six disorders (depression, generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, social anxiety, panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder), and personality (the Big Five, neuroticism facets, and four vulnerabilities: anxiety sensitivity, intolerance of uncertainty, perfectionism, experiential avoidance). All constructs were modeled as latent variables using structural equation modeling. All four vulnerabilities were closely associated with neuroticism, loading on its anxiety facet in factor analyses. Furthermore, after accounting for the contribution of neuroticism facets, intolerance of uncertainty and experiential avoidance were not uniquely associated with any disorders, and perfectionism was only related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, anxiety sensitivity accounted for substantial unique variance in several disorders (i.e., depression, social anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and panic). We discuss theoretical and clinical implications of these results.

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Kristin Naragon-Gainey and David Watson
What Lies Beyond Neuroticism? An Examination of the Unique Contributions of Social-Cognitive Vulnerabilities to Internalizing Disorders
Assessment 1073191116659741, first published on July 13, 2016 doi:10.1177/1073191116659741






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