Emotional regulation can be defined as “the set of actions that individuals take (either consciously or unconsciously) to affect their emotional experience” (Musket et al.). It can be either adaptive or maladaptive, meaning that the regulation could either work to improve or worsen an individual’s inner experience or functioning. There exists an expanding literature elucidating the role that difficulties in emotion regulation play in various psychopathologies. An incredibly recent pilot study published in the International Journal of Bipolar Disorder reveals the particular patterns of difficulties in emotion regulation and mindfulness-based regulation amongst adults with bipolar disorder (BD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) (Musket et al.).
BD and MDD are both severe and chronic mood disorders. The former is characterized by rather severe emotion fluctuation and impaired emotion regulation, while the latter is also characterized by emotion regulation deficits. It has been proposed for both disorders that problems in the regulation of emotions may be critical predictors of etiology and maintenance (Musket et al.).
The study examined self-reported patterns of trait difficulties with emotion regulation across four groups: currently hypomanic/manic BD I, remitted BD I, remitted MDD, and a healthy control group of adults. It also examined group differences in trait mindfulness-based regulation strategies, defining “mindfulness” as: “a mental state defined by bringing awareness to the present moment and accepting thoughts and feelings as they arise without immediate reaction or judgment” (Musket et al.). Mindfulness has been shown to facilitate adaptive emotion regulation, with recent work suggesting that mindfulness-based emotion regulation strategies could help reduce mood symptom severity in both BD and MDD.
Participants between the ages of 18-60 from the greater New Haven, CT area were screened to be placed in one of the four groups, with information regarding the individuals’ illnesses being obtained. These participants were each administered a structured clinical interview, then asked to complete a series of tasks unrelated to the study, and finally asked to fill out a set of self-report questionnaires. This set included the “Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale” (DERS), a 36-item questionnaire that provides an assessment of self-reported emotion regulation difficulties. It also included the Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) (Musket et al.).
Consistent with the expectations of researchers, the results revealed that all three clinical groups self-reported higher difficulties in emotion regulation relative to the control group (Musket et al.). The researchers reported that no other group differences were significant. Moreover, all three clinical groups also reported a decreased use of mindfulness-based regulation strategies compared to their control counterparts. The clinical groups did not differ from one another (Musket et al.). These results seem to indicate that both BD and MDD are characterized by increased levels of emotion regulation difficulties and decreased mindfulness relative to the healthy control group. This preliminary study sheds light on the possibility of patterns regarding emotion regulation strategies across mood disorders.
Musket, Christie W., et al. "A Pilot Investigation of Emotional Regulation Difficulties and Mindfulness-Based Strategies in Manic and Remitted Bipolar I Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder." International Journal of Bipolar Disorders, vol. 9, no. 1, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1186/s40345-020-00206-0.
Last Fact Checked on November 15th, 2021.