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Threat-sensitivity in affective disorders: a case-control study

Corr, P. J. ORCID: 0000-0002-7618-0058 (2020). Threat-sensitivity in affective disorders: a case-control study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 266, pp. 595-602. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.01.074


Background: Anxiety disorders are highly comorbid with major depression but differ in their symptom profiles and pharmacological responses. Threat-sensitivity may explain such differences, yet research on its relationship to specific disorders is lacking.

Methods: One-hundred patients (71 women) and 35 healthy controls (23 women) were recruited. Thirty-five had Panic Disorder (PD), 32 had Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and 33 Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Threat-sensitivity was measured via behaviour (Joystick Operated Runway Task; JORT) and self-report (Fear Survey Schedule; FSS).

Results: Behavioural sensitivity to simple threat was higher in females compared to males (p=.03). Self-reported sensitivity to simple threat (FSS Tissue Damage Fear) was higher in PD patients compared to other groups (p≤.007) and in GAD patients compared to controls (p=.02). Behavioural sensitivity to complex threat was higher in females than males (p=.03) and a group by sex interaction (p=.01) indicated that this difference was largest in PD patients. Self-reported sensitivity to complex threat (FSS Social Fear) was higher in all patients compared to controls (p≤.001). Females scored higher than males on FSS Tissue Damage Fear and FSS Social Fear).

Conclusions: Our findings oppose the simple/complex threat dichotomy, instead suggesting elevated sensitivity to physical threat differentiates anxiety disorders from MDD, whereas elevated sensitivity to social threat is associated with both anxiety disorders and MDD.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2020. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Publisher Keywords: Affective disorders; Panic Disorder; Generalized Anxiety Disorder; Personality; Joystick Operated Runway Task
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Perkins et al J Affective Disorders JORT 2020.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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