An Examination of the Role of Difficulties Regulating Positive Emotions in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Emotion regulation difficulties have been theoretically and empirically linked to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Previous research, however, has focused almost exclusively on difficulties regulating negative emotions. In this study, we explored the nature of difficulties regulating positive emotions in PTSD. Participants were women who had experienced domestic violence (N = 210; 48.6% African American; Mage = 36.14 years). Higher levels of nonacceptance of positive emotions, difficulties engaging in goal-directed behaviors when experiencing positive emotions, and difficulties controlling impulsive behaviors when experiencing positive emotions were related to a higher level of PTSD symptom severity overall and for the intrusion, avoidance/emotional numbing, and hyperarousal clusters, rs =.24–.37. The presence (vs. absence) of a probable PTSD diagnosis was related to greater difficulties engaging in goal-directed behaviors, d = 0.54, and controlling impulsive behaviors, d = 0.34, when experiencing positive emotions. Results suggest the potential utility of assessing and treating difficulties regulating positive emotions among domestic violence–victimized women with PTSD.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Traumatic Stress