Affective flexibility and generalized anxiety disorder: valence-specific shifting difficulties
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Background: Growing evidence suggests that generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is associated with poor affective flexibility, defined as the ability to switch between emotional aspects and non-emotional aspects of a situation. However, it is unclear whether affective inflexibility is valence-specific in GAD. Methods: Participants with GAD (n = 21) and non-clinical control participants (n = 28) were tested on an Affective Switching Task during which participants were asked to categorize pictures either by the valence or by the number of humans present in the pictures. Results: Individuals with GAD, but not healthy controls, exhibited greater difficulty shifting from emotional aspects of negative material compared to emotional aspects of positive material and shifting to the emotional aspects of positive material compared to emotional aspects of negative material. Conclusions: These findings suggest that GAD is associated with valence-specific affective flexibility biases. The relevance of the findings and directions for future research are discussed.
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