Title

Emotional Reactivity and Emotion Regulation among Adults with a History of Self-harm: Laboratory Self-report and Functional MRI Evidence.

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

8-2014

Organizational Units

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology

Abstract

Intentionally hurting one’s body (deliberate self-harm; DSH) is theorized to be associated with high negative emotional reactivity and poor emotion regulation ability. However, little research has assessed the relationship between these potential risk factors and DSH using laboratory measures. Therefore, we conducted 2 studies using laboratory measures of negative emotional reactivity and emotion regulation ability. Study 1 assessed self-reported negative emotions during a sad film clip (reactivity) and during a sad film clip for which participants were instructed to use reappraisal (regulation). Those with a history of DSH were compared with 2 control groups without a history of DSH matched on key demographics: 1 healthy group low in depression and anxiety symptoms and 1 group matched to the DSH group on depression and anxiety symptoms. Study 2 extended Study 1 by assessing neural responding to negative images (reactivity) and negative images for which participants were instructed to use reappraisal (regulation). Those with a history of DSH were compared with a control group matched to the DSH group on demographics, depression, and anxiety symptoms. Compared with control groups, participants with a history of DSH did not exhibit greater negative emotional reactivity but did exhibit lower ability to regulate emotion with reappraisal (greater self-reported negative emotions in Study 1 and greater amygdala activation in Study 2 during regulation). These results suggest that poor emotion regulation ability, but not necessarily greater negative emotional reactivity, is a correlate of and may be a risk factor for DSH, even when controlling for mood disorder symptoms.

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