Challenging assumptions from emotion dysregulation psychological treatments.
BACKGROUND: Contemporary treatments assume that the inability to downregulate negative emotional arousal is a key problem in the development and maintenance of psychopathology and that lack of effective regulation efforts and a preference to use maladaptive regulation strategies is a primary mechanism. Though ubiquitous, there is limited empirical evidence to support this assumption. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to examine whether self-reported emotion dysregulation equated to difficulties reducing emotional arousal during a behavioral task and to primary use of maladaptive strategies to manage negative emotions. METHODS: 44 anxious and depressed adults with high emotion dysregulation induced negative distress using autobiographic memory recall. After induction, participants were instructed to downregulate but were not provided any specific instructions in strategies to use. Self-reported emotional arousal was assessed before and after induction and after regulation. Qualitative descriptions of regulation efforts were collected and codedinto effective and maladaptive strategies. RESULTS: The task was successful in inducing emotional arousal and participants were successful in their efforts to down regulate negative emotions. Additionally, effective regulation strategies were used more frequently than maladaptive strategies. LIMITATIONS: Data collected was exclusively self-report and the sample size was small. CONCLUSION: Adults who report high emotion dysregulation may still have effective emotion regulation strategies in their behavioral repertoire and are more likely to engage in these effective strategies when given an unspecific prompt to regulate negative emotional arousal. Despite reporting problems with emotion regulation, adults with anxiety and depression can successfully downregulate distress when prompted to do so.
Neacsiu, AD; Smith, M; Fang, CM
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