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One of the goals for which the FEAR lab conducts research on mood and anxiety disorders is to learn more about transdiagnostic risk factors for these types of mental illnesses. The term transdiagnostic refers to factors used in diagnosis across multiple dimensions of mental illness. In other words, transdiagnostic refers to risk factors that are applicable to not just one type of mood or anxiety disorder, but all of them. Some of the transdiagnostic risk factors that the FEAR lab specifically is interested in researching include anxiety sensitivity, intolerance of uncertainty, negative affect, emotion regulation, and perfectionism. Understanding what some of these risk factors entail is important to understand how they be have an effect on the etiology, maintenance, and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders.


Anxiety sensitivity is, essentially, a fear of fear. The term refers to the fear of behaviors or sensations associated with the experience of anxiety. Bodily sensations related to anxiety are mistaken as a harmful experience, which causes more intense anxiety or fear. For example, a person whose heart rate is accelerating during a moment of anxiety may fear that what they are actually experiencing is a heart attack.


Intolerance of uncertainty has been defined as a maladaptive emotional arousal that occurs when individuals are confronted with potentially negative unknown events.  In other words, it is a term used to describe a state of mind that has a difficult time dealing with potential feelings of doubt, worry, or anxiety in general.


Negative affect is is a personality variable that involves the experience of negative emotions and poor self-concept. Negative affect includes a variety of negative emotions, including anger, contempt, disgust, guilt, fear, and nervousness. Essentially, negative affect is a tendency for people to be in a bad mood, and if oftentimes related to pessimism.


Emotion regulation is the ability to respond to experiences of a range of emotions in a way that is socially reasonable and sufficiently acceptable in order to delay automatic responses to emotions. In other words, emotion regulation is the ability to keep your emotions under control, whether they be positive ones, or negative ones. A lack of an ability to regulate one’s emotions is said to be linked to the likelihood of someone developing or suffering from a mood or anxiety disorder.


Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations. When someone who has high levels of perfectionist personality characteristics, they oftentimes do not respond well to failure. These people also typically view anything less than pure perfection as an extreme defeat, and will tend to blame themselves for any given thing not being the pinnacle of excellence. This blame can lead to extreme distress or sadness, which is why it is considered a risk factor for mood and anxiety disorders.

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