Title

Positive emotion dysregulation and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms: Investigating the role of anxiety sensitivity

Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

12-1-2021

Abstract

Objective: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms are prevalent and deleterious among individuals who have experienced a sexual assault. Although an emerging field of research has established a link between positive emotion dysregulation and PTSD symptoms, there is a limited understanding of mechanisms underlying this relation. Individuals who have experienced a sexual assault may begin to fear any arousal-related sensations via stimulus generalization, including that associated with positive emotions, which, in turn, may amplify PTSD symptoms. Thus, the current study examined the role of anxiety sensitivity in the association between positive emotion dysregulation and PTSD symptoms. Methods: A sample of 500 community members reporting a history of sexual assault (Mage = 34.54, 54.4% male, 79.0% white) completed measures of positive emotion dysregulation, anxiety sensitivity, and PTSD symptoms. Results: Findings detected a significant indirect effect of anxiety sensitivity in the relation between positive emotion dysregulation and PTSD symptoms (β = 0.28, SE = 0.03, 95% CI [0.22, 0.34]). Supplementary analyses revealed that effects held for subscales of anxiety sensitivity (i.e., cognitive, physical, social concerns) and PTSD symptom clusters (i.e., intrusions, avoidance, negative alternations in cognitions and mood, alternations in arousal and reactivity). Conclusions: This study offers preliminary empirical support for the assertion that fear of arousal-related sensations associated with positive emotions may partially explain the link between positive emotion dysregulation and PTSD symptoms among those who have experienced a sexual assault. Information from this study could advance future research and treatment.

Publication Title

Journal of Anxiety Disorders

Volume

84

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