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The Effects of Emotion Regulation Strategies in Clinical Symptom Presentations
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Preliminary evidence suggests that the effects of regulating emotion may be moderated by both individual differences in trait emotional responding and symptoms of psychopathology. However, more knowledge of how the effects of emotion regulation strategies are moderated by specific symptoms of psychopathology is needed to better diagnose and treat individuals with psychopathology. The purpose of this study was to experimentally test how the effects of emotion suppression (a commonly used emotion regulation strategy) are moderated by individual differences in psychopathology (in this case, depressive symptoms and comorbid clinical worry predictive of generalized anxiety disorder). Results indicated no effect of suppression on self-reported sadness compared to control condition for any participants, and all participants recovered from sadness equally after a delay in time. Suppressing anxiety led to a reduction in self-reported anxiety compared to control condition for nonclinical participants, but this difference was not observed for those showing depressive symptoms, regardless of level of comorbid clinical worry. Results reveal that normative individuals may be able to mitigate state anxiety compared to other emotions like sadness, thus demonstrating the potential of a unique relationship between emotion suppression and anxious responding. However, the lack of ability for those with elevated depression and any level of comorbid worry to mitigate state anxiety indicates the potential for a shared emotion regulatory factor among depressive and anxiety pathology. Implications for theoretical understanding, assessment of psychopathology, and clinical practice are discussed.