"This is interpreted as neuroticism leading to enhanced anxiety under conditions associated with aversive events but in which negative events themselves are very unlikely," Craske said. "It may represent a failure to distinguish conditions that are safe from conditions in which threatening events are very likely to occur. By translation, these findings suggest that persons with high neuroticism would respond with appropriate fear to actual threatening events, but with additional unnecessary anxiety to surrounding conditions. This type of responding may explain why neuroticism contributes to the development of pervasive anxiety."
Craske and her colleagues report their findings this month in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
She hopes the study will reveal the risk factors that predict anxiety, versus depression, and which risk factors are common to both anxiety and depression.
"Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand; we're trying to learn what factors place adolescents at risk for the development of anxiety and depression, what is common between anxiety and depression, and what is unique to each," Craske said. "We chose this age group because 16-to-19 is when anxiety and mood disorders tend to surge in prevalence."
Some 25 percent of the U.S. population experience anxiety disorders over their lifetime; these disorders are about twice as common in women as men, Craske said. If those at risk can be identified in advance, perhaps they can be treated with an early intervention, reducing the risk for later anxiety problems.
At the outset of the study, many of the teenagers were already experiencing depression and anxiety, more than Craske had expected.
"We assumed most would not be currently anxious or depressed and we would see who develops disorders over time," she said. "We we
|Contact: Stuart Wolpert|
University of California - Los Angeles