Exploring Emotion Regulation Difficulties in Samples of Civilians and Veterans



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Research has indicated that emotion regulation (ER) difficulties are associated with psychological health problems, including greater depression, anxiety, and negative affect, and reduced overall well-being (Atherton et al., 2015; Lowry, 2008; Saxena, P., Dubey, A., & Pandey, 2011; Sloan & Kring, 2010). However, there is limited research in clinical samples, few studies adjust for negative affectivity, and there is a lack of focus or explication of the specific facets of ER difficulties. Furthermore, despite emerging research demonstrating that Veterans with military-related trauma often exhibit disturbances in experiencing, expressing, and identifying emotions (Boden et al., 2013; Frewen et al., 2008; Reber et al., 2013), there is a dearth of research investigating ER difficulties in Veterans. The purpose of the dissertation study is to fill these gaps in the literature and increase understanding of ER difficulties in relation to the maintenance, severity, and treatment of common psychological health constructs. Thus, the current study seeks to explore ER difficulties in samples of civilians and Veterans and how they are related to depression severity, anxiety severity, and functional impairment/life satisfaction). Data from two existing databases were used for the present study and included participants who underwent structured diagnostic interviews and completed questionnaires assessing clinical phenomena and ER difficulties (N = 568 in the civilian sample and N = 178 in the Veteran sample). A series of two-step, hierarchical regression analyses were used to examine relationships between general and specific ER difficulties and psychological health variables, including depression severity, anxiety severity, and functional impairment/life satisfaction. Results indicated that overall and specific ER difficulties (most consistently limited access to ER strategies) significantly predicted psychological health variables in both samples. These findings highlight the importance of considering ER difficulties in the development, severity, and treatment of common psychological health constructs. Further implications for treatment are discussed.



Emotion regulation, Emotion regulation difficulties, Emotion dysregulation, Emotion Regulation Scale