Repetitive negative thinking and experiential avoidance have been hypothesized to be related, transdiagnostic maintenance factors for depression and anxiety, yet is unclear how these processes overlap or diverge. Here we use a symptom-level approach to address this question.
Adults presenting for treatment to an intensive CBT program (n = 492) completed measures of depression and anxiety symptom severity, repetitive negative thinking, and experiential avoidance. Our pre-registered network analysis approach examined the contribution of these transdiagnostic maintenance factors to the predictability of a depression and anxiety symptom network. Exploratory analyses used permutation testing to formally evaluate the predictability of the symptom network.
Permutation testing indicates that repetitive negative thinking significantly improved the predictability of worrying and poor concentration, whereas experiential avoidance improved the predictability of difficulties relaxing, being afraid something bad was going to happen, and feeling like a failure.
Our sample was cross-sectional and a predominantly white, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) sample.
Repetitive negative thinking and experiential avoidance each were associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety but did not overlap across the comorbid symptom network. More broadly, applying network analysis helps to more precisely identify which symptoms of depression and anxiety are associated with transdiagnostic maintenance factors, thus providing insight into how these factors may contribute to the maintenance of co-occurring disorders.