Anxiety, fear, and sadness are a normal—even adaptive—part of the human emotional experience. However, the same emotions form the core of anxiety and depressive disorders that are among the leading causes of disability worldwide. What distinguishes clinical anxiety and depression from normal emotional experiences? Why do anxiety and depression so often co-occur? The answers to these questions have far-reaching implications for the science and practice of clinical psychology. The search for causes of emotional disorders, the development of targeted treatments, the accurate diagnosis of those in need of services, all depend on “carving nature at its joints.” Despite their impact, however, these are questions on which clinical scientists still strongly disagree.
Research in our lab seeks to advance understanding of anxiety and depression by investigating their relationship to one another and to normal emotional experiences. We use a diverse set of methods to probe the boundaries of emotional disorders, describe distinguishing features of these disorders, and identify mechanisms through which anxiety and depression emerge and co-occur. Our research has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation and is enhanced by collaborations with behavioral scientists from across the university and around the world. The eventual goal is to translate discoveries about the basic nature of emotional disturbance into practical improvements in the classification, detection, prevention, and reduction of emotional suffering.
Thank you for your interest in our work!