Autonomy deficits as vulnerability for anxiety: evidence from two laboratory-based studies

L. E. Kunst*, J. Maas, M. A.L.M. Van Assen, W. Van der Heijden, M. H.J. Bekker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Autonomous individuals are characterized by self-governance; awareness of and capacity to realize one’s wishes and needs, while being connected with and sensitive towards others. In line with earlier research showing consistent associations between autonomy-connectedness deficits and anxiety, we tested in two studies whether autonomy deficits predict anxious responses to acute stressors. Methods: In Study 1, participants (N = 177) viewed an anxiety-inducing film fragment and reported anxiety before and after viewing the clip. In experimental Study 2, participants (N = 100) were randomly allocated to one of two conditions: giving a short presentation to an audience (impromptu speech task) or watching another person’s presentation (control condition). Anxiety was measured at baseline, after a preparation period and directly after the presentation. Results: In Study 1, individuals’ anxiety in reaction to watching the movie was positively associated with the autonomy-connectedness component sensitivity to others. In Study 2, individuals’ anxiety in reaction to preparing the presentation was negatively associated with the autonomy-connectedness component self-awareness. Conclusions: Specific autonomy components may be related to experiencing anxiety in differing situations (i.e., related to others’ distress or presenting one’s personal views). Collectively these results indicate that autonomy-connectedness deficits may form a vulnerability factor for experiencing anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-258
Number of pages15
JournalAnxiety, Stress and Coping
Volume32
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • autonomy
  • autonomy-connectedness
  • self-awareness
  • sensitivity to others
  • stress

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