Repetitive negative thinking as a mediator in prospective cross-disorder associations between anxiety and depression disorders and their symptoms

Philip Spinhoven*, Albert M. van Hemert, Brenda W. Penninx

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background and objectives: Comorbidity among anxiety and depression disorders and their symptoms is high. Rumination and worry have been found to mediate prospective cross-disorder relations between anxiety and depression disorders and their symptoms in adolescents and adults. We examined whether generic repetitive negative thinking (RNT), that is content- and disorder-independent, also mediates prospective cross-disorder associations between anxiety and depressions disorders and their symptoms. Methods: This was studied using a 5-year prospective cohort study. In a mixed sample of 1859 adults (persons with a prior history of or a current affective disorder and healthy individuals), we assessed DSM-IV affective disorders (Composite Interview Diagnostic Instrument), anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory) and depression symptoms (Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology) and RNT (Perseverative Thinking Questionnaire). Results: We found that baseline depression disorders and symptom severity have predictive value for anxiety disorders and symptom severity five years later (and vice versa) and that these associations were significantly mediated by level of RNT as assessed two years after baseline. The significant and rather large mediation effects seemed mainly due to the mental capacity captured by RNT, especially in the prospective relation of anxiety with future depression. Limitations: The mediation effects were greatly attenuated or even nullified after rigorously controlling for concomitant psychopathology at two years after baseline. Conclusions: From these results it can be concluded that repetitive negative thinking could be an important transdiagnostic factor, that may constitute a suitable target for treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-11
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019

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