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Preview: Journal of Abnormal Psychology - Vol 118, Iss 4

Journal of Abnormal Psychology - Vol 126, Iss 3

The Journal of Abnormal Psychology publishes articles on basic research and theory in the broad field of abnormal behavior, its determinants, and its correlates. The following general topics fall within its area of major focus: (a) psychopathology—its e

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Copyright: Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association

Personality disorder symptom severity predicts onset of mood episodes and conversion to bipolar I disorder in individuals with bipolar spectrum disorder.


Although personality disorders (PDs) are highly comorbid with bipolar spectrum disorders (BSDs), little longitudinal research has been conducted to examine the prospective impact of PD symptoms on the course of BSDs. The aim of this study is to examine whether PD symptom severity predicts shorter time to onset of bipolar mood episodes and conversion to bipolar I disorder over time among individuals with less severe BSDs. Participants (n = 166) with bipolar II disorder, cyclothymia, or bipolar disorder not otherwise specified completed diagnostic interview assessments of PD symptoms and self-report measures of mood symptoms at baseline. They were followed prospectively with diagnostic interviews every 4 months for an average of 3.02 years. Cox proportional hazard regression analyses indicated that overall PD symptom severity significantly predicted shorter time to onset of hypomanic (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.42; p < .001) and major depressive episodes (HR = 1.51; p < .001) and conversion to bipolar I disorder (HR = 2.51; p < .001), after controlling for mood symptoms. Results also suggested that cluster B severity predicted shorter time to onset of hypomanic episodes (HR = 1.38; p = .002) and major depressive episodes (HR = 1.35; p = .01) and conversion to bipolar I disorder (HR = 2.77; p < .001), whereas cluster C severity (HR = 1.56; p < .001) predicted shorter time to onset of major depressive episodes. These results support predisposition models in suggesting that PD symptoms may act as a risk factor for a more severe course of BSDs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Explicit and implicit self-evaluations in social anxiety disorder.


Cognitive models of social anxiety disorder (SAD) emphasize the role of explicit and implicit self-evaluations (SEs) in the etiology and maintenance of this condition. Whereas individuals with SAD consistently report lower explicit SEs as compared with nonanxious individuals, findings concerning implicit SEs are mixed. To gain a more nuanced understanding of the nature of SEs in SAD, we examined explicit and implicit SEs in two significant interpersonal domains: social rank and affiliation. Consistent with cognitive theorizing, we predicted that, compared to nonclinical controls (NCCs), individuals with SAD would exhibit lower explicit and implicit SEs in both domains. Guided by evolutionary theories we also predicted that the differences in SEs between the groups would be greater in the social rank, as compared to the affiliation, domain. Individuals diagnosed with SAD (n = 38) and NCCs) n = 40) performed two variants of the Self Implicit Association Test: one concerning social rank, and the other concerning affiliation. They also rated themselves on social-rank and affiliation traits. We found that, as compared to NCCs, individuals with SAD exhibited lower social-rank and affiliation SEs. Moreover, differences between the groups in social-rank SEs were greater than in affiliation SEs. Importantly, this pattern was evident in implicit SEs, as much as in explicit SEs. Our findings dovetail with evolutionary accounts highlighting the centrality of the social-rank system in SAD, and refine central tenets of cognitive theories of SAD. A multidomain, multimethod approach to the understanding of the self may broaden our conceptualization of SAD and related disorders. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

State-dependent alterations in inhibitory control and emotional face identification in seasonal affective disorder.


Background: Depressed individuals often exhibit impaired inhibition to negative input and identification of positive stimuli, but it is unclear whether this is a state or trait feature. We here exploited a naturalistic model, namely individuals with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), to study this feature longitudinally. Aim: The goal of this study was to examine seasonal changes in inhibitory control and identification of emotional faces in individuals with SAD. Method: Twenty-nine individuals diagnosed with winter-SAD and 30 demographically matched controls with no seasonality symptoms completed an emotional Go/NoGo task, requiring inhibition of prepotent responses to emotional facial expressions and an emotional face identification task twice, in winter and summer. Results: In winter, individuals with SAD showed impaired ability to inhibit responses to angry (p = .0006) and sad faces (p = .011), and decreased identification of happy faces (p = .032) compared with controls. In summer, individuals with SAD and controls performed similarly on these tasks (ps > .24). Conclusion: We provide novel evidence that inhibition of angry and sad faces and identification of happy faces are impaired in SAD in the symptomatic phase, but not in the remitted phase. The affective biases in cognitive processing constitute state-dependent features of SAD. Our data show that reinstatement of a normal affective cognition should be possible and would constitute a major goal in psychiatric treatment to improve the quality of life for these patients. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Altered experiential, but not hypothetical, delay discounting in schizophrenia.


Delay discounting (DD) is a future-oriented decision-making process that refers to whether one is willing to forego a smaller, sooner reward for the sake of a larger, later reward. It can be assessed using hypothetical tasks, which involve choices between hypothetical rewards of varying amounts over delay periods of days to years, or experiential tasks, which involve receiving actual rewards in real time over delay periods of seconds to minutes. Initial studies in schizophrenia have only used hypothetical tasks and have been mixed in finding either elevated or normal levels of DD. One hundred thirty-one outpatients with schizophrenia and 70 healthy controls completed hypothetical and experiential DD tasks involving monetary rewards, and the schizophrenia group was retested after 4 weeks. Although both groups showed qualitatively similar hyperbolic discounting functions on both tasks, they showed a quantitative DD difference. The schizophrenia showed higher DD than controls on the experiential task but normal DD on the hypothetical task. This pattern was not attributable to a range of potential confounds, including smoking status, substance use disorder status, or neurocognition. It was also not attributable to differences in the test–retest reliability, which was good for both tasks. The schizophrenia group’s robust pattern of altered experiential but normal hypothetical task performance points to key factors that may contribute to impaired DD in this disorder. These may include increased valuation of small (but not large) monetary rewards, or a hypersensitivity to costs associated with waiting inactively for those rewards. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Evidence of systematic attenuation in the measurement of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia.


Cognitive tasks that are too hard or too easy produce imprecise measurements of ability, which, in turn, attenuates group differences and can lead to inaccurate conclusions in clinical research. We aimed to illustrate this problem using a popular experimental measure of working memory—the N-back task—and to suggest corrective strategies for measuring working memory and other cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. Samples of undergraduates (n = 42), community controls (n = 25), outpatients with schizophrenia (n = 33), and inpatients with schizophrenia (n = 17) completed the N-back. Predictors of task difficulty—including load, number of word syllables, and presentation time—were experimentally manipulated. Using a methodology that combined techniques from signal detection theory and item response theory, we examined predictors of difficulty and precision on the N-back task. Load and item type were the 2 strongest predictors of difficulty. Measurement precision was associated with ability, and ability varied by group; as a result, patients were measured more precisely than controls. Although difficulty was well matched to the ability levels of impaired examinees, most task conditions were too easy for nonimpaired participants. In a simulation study, N-back tasks primarily consisting of 1- and 2-back load conditions were unreliable, and attenuated effect size (Cohen’s d) by as much as 50%. The results suggest that N-back tasks, as commonly designed, may underestimate patients’ cognitive deficits as a result of nonoptimized measurement properties. Overall, this cautionary study provides a template for identifying and correcting measurement problems in clinical studies of abnormal cognition. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

A network approach to modeling comorbid internalizing and alcohol use disorders.


Internalizing disorders co-occur with alcohol use disorder (AUD) at a rate that exceeds chance and compromise conventional AUD treatment. The “vicious cycle” model of comorbidity specifies drinking to cope (DTC) as a link between these disorders that, when not directly addressed, undermines the effectiveness of conventional treatments. Interventions based on this model have proven successful but there is no direct evidence for how and to what extent DTC contributes to the maintenance of comorbidity. In the present study, we used network analysis to depict associations between syndrome-specific groupings of internalizing symptoms, alcohol craving, and drinking behavior, as well as DTC and other extradiagnostic variables specified in the vicious cycle model (e.g., perceived stress and coping self-efficacy). Network analyses of 362 individuals with comorbid anxiety and AUD assessed at the beginning of residential AUD treatment indicated that while internalizing conditions and drinking elements had only weak direct associations, they were strongly connected with DTC and perceived stress. Consistent with this, centrality indices showed that DTC ranked as the most central/important element in the network in terms of its “connectedness” to all other network elements. A series of model simulations—in which individual elements were statistically controlled for—demonstrated that DTC accounted for all the relationships between the drinking-related elements and internalizing elements in the network; no other variable had this effect. Taken together, our findings suggest that DTC may serve as a “keystone” process in maintaining comorbidity between internalizing disorders and AUD. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The core symptoms of bulimia nervosa, anxiety, and depression: A network analysis.


Bulimia nervosa (BN) is characterized by symptoms of binge eating and compensatory behavior, and overevaluation of weight and shape, which often co-occur with symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, there is little research identifying which specific BN symptoms maintain BN psychopathology and how they are associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Network analyses represent an emerging method in psychopathology research to examine how symptoms interact and may become self-reinforcing. In the current study of adults with a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition (DSM–IV) diagnosis of BN (N = 196), we used network analysis to identify the central symptoms of BN, as well as symptoms that may bridge the association between BN symptoms and anxiety and depression symptoms. Results showed that fear of weight gain was central to BN psychopathology, whereas binge eating, purging, and restriction were less central in the symptom network. Symptoms related to sensitivity to physical sensations (e.g., changes in appetite, feeling dizzy, and wobbly) were identified as bridge symptoms between BN, and anxiety and depressive symptoms. We discuss our findings with respect to cognitive–behavioral treatment approaches for BN. These findings suggest that treatments for BN should focus on fear of weight gain, perhaps through exposure therapies. Further, interventions focusing on exposure to physical sensations may also address BN psychopathology, as well as co-occurring anxiety and depressive symptoms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Network models of DSM–5 posttraumatic stress disorder: Implications for ICD–11.


Recent proposals for revisions to the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD–11) posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnostic criteria have argued that the current symptom constellation under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 is unwieldy and includes many symptoms that overlap with other disorders. The newly proposed criteria for the ICD–11 include only 6 symptoms. However, restricting the symptoms to those included in the ICD–11 has implications for PTSD diagnosis prevalence estimates, and it remains unclear whether these 6 symptoms are most strongly associated with a diagnosis of PTSD. Network analytic methods, which assume that psychiatric disorders are networks of interrelated symptoms, provide information regarding which symptoms are most central to a network. We estimated network models of PTSD in a national sample of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In the full sample, the most central symptoms were persistent negative emotional state, efforts to avoid external reminders, efforts to avoid thoughts or memories, inability to experience positive emotions, distressing dreams, and intrusive distressing thoughts or memories; that is, 3 of the 6 most central items to the network would be eliminated from the diagnosis under the current proposal for ICD–11. An empirically defined index summarizing the most central symptoms in the network performed comparably to an index reflecting the proposed ICD–11 PTSD criteria at identifying individuals with an independently assessed DSM–5 defined PTSD diagnosis. Our results highlight the symptoms most central to PTSD in this sample, which may inform future diagnostic systems and treatment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)