, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 21-36

Anxiety disorders, depression, and attributional style: A further test of the specificity of depressive attributions

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Abstract

This study examined the specificity to depression of the attributional style hypothesized by the reformulated model of learned helplessness. Scores on a modified version of the Attributional Style Questionnaire of patients with dysthymic disorder were compared with those of anxiety disorder patients (social phobic, agoraphobic, and panic disorder) and normal subjects. While dysthymic patients demonstrated more internal, global, and stable attributions for negative events than normals, they did not systematically differ from social phobic or agoraphobic subjects. All groups differed from all the other groups on the Beck Depression Inventory. Analysis of covariance that controlled for depression scores suggested that depression contributed substantially to attributional style, but anxiety disorder diagnosis also exerted a significant effect on some attributional measures. These findings are discussed in terms of their meaning for the reformulated model of learned helplessness and the role of attributional processes in anxiety disorders.

Conduct of this study was supported in part by NIMH grants No. 38368 awarded to Richard G. Heimberg, No. 40639 awarded to Robert E. Becker, and No. 39096 awarded to David H. Barlow. We wish to express our appreciation to Debra A. Hope and Debbie Mekos, who assisted in the data analysis. Portions of this paper were presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, Boston, November 1987.