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Impaired Attribution Of Emotion To Facial Expressions In Anxiety And Major Depression

women with an angry lookRecognition of others’ emotions is an important aspect of interpersonal communication. In major depression, a significant emotion recognition impairment has been reported. It remains unclear whether the ability to recognize emotion from facial expressions is also impaired in anxiety disorders. There is a need to review and integrate the published literature on emotional expression recognition in anxiety disorders and major depression. Check the end of this report for a link to download this freely available, open access study.

Methodology / Principal Findings
A detailed literature search was used to identify studies on explicit emotion recognition in patients with anxiety disorders and major depression compared to healthy participants. Eighteen studies provided sufficient information to be included. The differences on emotion recognition impairment between patients and controls (Cohen’s d) with corresponding confidence intervals were computed for each study.

Over all studies, adults with anxiety disorders had a significant impairment in emotion recognition (d [effect size] = − 0.35). In children with anxiety disorders no significant impairment of emotion recognition was found (d = − 0.03). Major depression was associated with an even larger impairment in recognition of facial expressions of emotion (d = − 0.58).

Conclusions / Significance
Results from the current analysis support the hypothesis that adults with anxiety disorders or major depression both have a deficit in recognizing facial expression of emotions, and that this deficit is more pronounced in major depression than in anxiety.

Material adapted from PLoS ONE.

Download / Reference
Demenescu LR, Kortekaas R, den Boer JA, & Aleman A. (2010). Impaired Attribution of Emotion to Facial Expressions in Anxiety and Major Depression. PLoS ONE 5(12): e15058. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015058

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