Emotion regulation of fear and disgust: Implications for anxiety disorders
Berg, Hannah E.
Although the emotion of fear has been central to traditional conceptualizations of the development and treatment of anxiety disorders, recent research suggests that the emotion of disgust may also play an important role in anxiety disorders. Since fear and disgust differ with regards to cognitive appraisals, physiology, and time course, the experience of the two emotions may also differ with regards to the influence of emotion-regulation strategies. There is a growing consensus that poor emotion regulation may confer risk for the development of anxiety disorders; thus, a better understanding of how different emotion-regulation strategies influence fear and disgust may then have important treatment implications. In the present study, healthy undergraduate participants (n=95) were randomized to view either a fear-relevant or a disgust-relevant video, and they were instructed to employ either reappraisal or suppression to decrease their emotional experience while viewing the video. Participants in the Reappraise/Disgust group reported significantly lesser increases in distress during the video than all other groups. Subsequent analysis examining the significant interaction revealed that participants that viewed the disgust video experienced a greater increase in fear when they were engaging in suppression versus reappraisal. These findings suggest that reappraisal may be especially effective when in the context of disgust. The implications of these findings for the development and treatment of anxiety disorders that are characterized by excessive disgust reactions will be discussed.
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