Research on the interpersonal consequences of depression highlights the adverse effects of one partner’s mood disturbance on another (). The tendency to “catch” another person’s distress is referred to as emotional contagion and has been supported extensively in social psychology (e.g., ) as well as in the literature on depression (). Spouses of depressed partners show higher levels of depressed mood than do controls, with a substantial portion carrying levels of distress that warrant clinical intervention (). Yet data on the concordance of anxiety in dyads is sparse. One study found that displays of anxiety elicited high levels of distress, rejection, and devaluation from others, with some evidence for affect-specific mood induction (). However, most studies in this area used nonclinical samples and did not examine these phenomena in the context of intimate relationships. Adults who meet diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder may be more likely to show dyadic concordance in distress than nonclinical groups, perhaps as a function of the severity, chronicity, and perceived unmanageability of their anxiety (e.g., ). A second focus of the current study was therefore to examine the degree to which one partner’s anxiety is associated with elevated distress in the partner.

We were further interested in specifying conditions that strengthen this concordance in distress. Studies examining familial responses to a relative with an anxiety disorder have identified response styles that may contribute to shared distress (). For example,  found that the degree of distress felt by relatives of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was significantly related to how frequently they accommodated the patient’s symptoms and how critical or rejecting they felt toward the patient.  similarly reported that high levels of family accommodation to OCD patients’ symptoms was strongly related to relatives’ disengagement and denial in the face of stressful situations. In the present study, we examined whether adults with anxiety disorders were more likely to transmit distress to their partners when their partners featured certain habitual response styles, such as hostility and rejection, or symptom accommodation.

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