The role of emotion dysregulation in negative affect reactivity to a trauma cue: Differential associations through elicited posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms

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Background: Recent research has linked emotion dysregulation with increases in subjective ratings of negative affect (NA reactivity) to trauma reminders, a central symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The current study adds to this burgeoning line of research by exploring elicited PTSD symptoms as a mechanism explicating the relation between emotion dysregulation and NA reactivity following trauma cue exposure. Methods: Participants were 60 treatment-seeking marijuana users with insomnia symptoms who reported exposure to a traumatic event. Participants were administered questionnaires assessing emotion dysregulation, PTSD symptoms, and NA prior to and/or after listening to a personalized trauma script, and subsequently completed a diagnostic interview. Results: Results demonstrated that greater emotion dysregulation was associated with heightened NA reactivity through re-experiencing symptoms, but not avoidance or dissociation symptoms, even after accounting for past 30-day PTSD symptom severity and pre-trauma script NA. These effects were driven by the dimensions of emotion dysregulation characterized by nonacceptance of negative emotions and limited access to effective emotion regulation strategies. Limitations: This study requires replication among other clinical samples, and is limited by use of self-report measures. Conclusions: Findings provide novel empirical support for one mechanism through which emotion dysregulation may confer vulnerability to PTSD symptomology, and offer implications for refining PTSD treatments.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Affective Disorders