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Cognitive diathesis stress models of depression emphasize individual styles of attributing causal explanations to negative and positive events in life. The Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASQ) has traditionally been used to measure explanatory style, defined as an individual’s habitual way of assigning causes to negative events. Explanatory flexibility, rather than focusing on the content of one’s thoughts, emphasizes the extent to which individuals are able to make different attributions depending on the particular context of each event. The underlying notion is that individuals who are better able to adapt to the cues and demands of a stressful situation may be able to respond more effectively and are thereby less vulnerable to depression. Despite evidence attesting to its relevance to depression and anxiety disorders, explanatory flexibility has yet to be examined in a purely treatment-seeking sample of patients clinically diagnosed with Axis I psychopathology. The current study examined baseline levels of explanatory flexibility, along with explanatory style, in a sample of 171 treatment-seeking patients diagnosed with either major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), or at least one other Axis I disorder. Overall, the results replicate and extend past results indicating a distinction between explanatory flexibility and explanatory style. Furthermore, patients with MDD and GAD demonstrated lower levels of explanatory flexibility relative to patients with other Axis I disorders. Thus, explanatory flexibility may assist in our understanding of the etiology, maintenance, and treatment of emotional disorders, with particular relevance to MDD and GAD.
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- Explanatory Flexibility and Explanatory Style in Treatment-Seeking Patients with Axis I Psychopathology
Ryan J. Lackner
Michael T. Moore
Julia R. Minerovic
David M. Fresco
- Springer US