The relationship between trauma and transdiagnostic features of anxiety and depression

Joseph Brand, Fordham University


Although anxiety and depression share many common features, they are separated into discrete categories in the DSM-5 and ICD-10. Prior research indicates that there may be more utility in conceptualizing these disorders using a "transdiagnostic" approach. This study examines the transdiagnostic cognitive-behavioral features of anxiety and depression as well as trauma as a transdiagnostic predictor of these disorders. The current study included a sample of 1,007 participants from the community recruited through Amazon MTurk. These participants completed a battery of questionnaires about trauma history, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and reports of transdiagnostic cognitive-behavioral processes. Overall, the results indicate that trauma significantly predicts most symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as most transdiagnostic processes. More direct exposure to trauma predicted greater symptoms of anxiety and depression and higher levels of transdiagnostic processes. Additionally, transdiagnostic processes significantly mediated the relationship between trauma and symptoms of anxiety and depression. These relationships were stronger for direct exposure to trauma than indirect exposure to trauma. Findings from the current study support prior research which indicates that anxiety disorders and depression share a number of common features, including both environmental (e.g., trauma) and internal (e.g., cognitive-behavioral processes). This study justifies further research in the domains of transdiagnostic features and trauma's role in the development of anxiety and depression. In terms of clinical implications, if future research supports conceptualizing anxiety and depression using a transdiagnostic approach, this may lead to parsimony in treatment, as clinicians may not have to put forth additional effort and time into becoming proficient in numerous treatment manuals for each specific disorder. Instead, clinicians might be able to become proficient in fewer manuals that focus on these transdiagnostic features.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Brand, Joseph, "The relationship between trauma and transdiagnostic features of anxiety and depression" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3727401.