Playing it safe: An examination of risk-avoidance in an anxious treatment-seeking sample

Carolyn N. Lorian*, Alison Mahoney, Jessica R. Grisham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


It has been argued that individuals who are anxious are less likely and willing to take perceived risks across multiple behavioral domains (e.g., social, recreational, financial etc.), and that this bias is likely implicated in the etiology of pathological anxiety. While evidence is accumulating, there has been minimal research investigating the characteristics of risk-avoidance across anxiety disorders and across the specific risk-taking domains. The current study investigated risk-avoidance across domains in an anxious treatment-seeking sample. We hypothesized that: (i) individuals with anxiety would be more risk averse across domains relative to healthy controls; and, (ii) risk-avoidance would predict unique variance in anxiety symptoms, above and beyond other vulnerability factors (e.g., neuroticism). Individuals diagnosed with one or more anxiety disorders (n = 67) completed measures of risk-taking, anxiety and depression symptoms, personality, and psychological distress. Healthy controls (n = 58) completed measures of risk-taking and psychological distress. Results partially confirmed our hypotheses, demonstrating that anxious individuals were significantly more risk averse relative to controls across most domains, even after controlling for age and psychological distress. Furthermore, specific domains were found to account for unique variance in specific anxiety symptoms, as well as symptoms of depression. The results of this study provide novel evidence to suggest that risk-aversion is a possible transdiagnostic factor contributing to anxiety pathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-71
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Decision-making
  • Risk-avoidance
  • Risk-taking
  • Transdiagnostic


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