The Emotional Experience Associated with Worrying in Adolescents
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- Fowler, S. & Szabó, M. J Psychopathol Behav Assess (2013) 35: 65. doi:10.1007/s10862-012-9316-3
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Among adults, both normal and pathological worrying has been found to be associated with a unique emotional syndrome involving irritability, restlessness, low frustration tolerance and difficulty relaxing. This emotional state is empirically distinguishable from anxiety and depression, and is reliably assessed by the Stress scale of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS). The association between worry and ‘stress’ may have important implications for a better theoretical understanding of worrying in adults. Among youth, however, the emotional experience associated with worrying has not yet been clearly described. The present study aimed to explore whether a distinct, adult-like ‘stress’ syndrome can be assessed in adolescents via self-report, and whether, as in adults, stress has a specific association with worrying. A simplified version of the DASS was created to maximize its comprehension by adolescents. A group of 340 12–18-year-olds completed the simplified DASS and a self-report measure of worry. Factor analyses revealed a three-factor structure underlying the simplified DASS, similar to the original adult version. Further analyses showed that worry had a unique association with Stress, over and above its association with Depression and Anxiety. Adolescents who worry more excessively and uncontrollably also reported higher levels of irritability, restlessness and difficulty relaxing, while the autonomic arousal symptoms of anxiety had consistently low associations with worrying, especially in older adolescents. Results indicate that the proposed cognitive avoidance function of worrying may be present by adolescence.