How Do Depression and Attachment Affect Emotional Disclosure?

Sharing emotional experiences, or engaging in emotional disclosure, can be a cathartic process, resulting in reductions in stress, anxiety and tension. “In an opposite manner, the active concealment of distressing information is associated with psychological distress and physical symptoms such as headaches and backaches,” said Angela M. Garrison of the Department of Counselor Education and Counselor Psychology at Western Michigan University. Similarly, people with depression or anxiety often suppress their emotions to avoid facing negative feelings. Research has shown that individuals who have attachment issues struggle with emotional disclosure as well. Because emotional disclosure is so closely linked to depression and attachment, it is difficult to determine how each condition affects emotional regulation. “Specifically, depression symptoms and attachment are both associated with emotional disclosure, but depression symptoms and attachment are also related to each other,” said Garrison, lead author of a recent study on emotional disclosure. “For theory clarification, it is therefore important to disentangle the effect of depression symptoms on emotional disclosure from the potential effects of attachment on emotional disclosure.”

In order to isolate the effects, Garrison and her colleagues assessed 121 college students for depression and attachment problems, as well as emotional disclosure using a daily diary for seven days. “Results indicated that depression symptoms were negatively related to generalized disclosure tendencies and to intra-individual daily intensity-disclosure slopes,” said Garrison. “Attachment avoidance was negatively related to both generalized disclosure tendencies and to daily disclosure, and attachment anxiety moderated the relation between daily event intensity and disclosure.” She believes clinicians should be aware that a depressed client may need encouragement to disclose particularly difficult emotions. “Knowing this may enable clinicians to encourage these clients to talk about their emotions even when their initial reaction is to not share their feelings.” She added, “It may also be important for clinicians to encourage disclosure differently in clients who are avoidantly or anxiously attached given that recent research has supported the notion that attachment orientation does impact clients’ levels and patterns of disclosure in psychotherapy.”

Garrison, A. M., Kahn, J. H., Sauer, E. M., & Florczak, M. A. (2011, November 7). Disentangling the Effects of Depression Symptoms and Adult Attachment on Emotional Disclosure. Journal of Counseling Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026132

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • S.D. Goode

    November 13th, 2011 at 10:42 PM

    Who wants to open up about painful issues? I sure don’t. I’d rather hide them and suffer the physical aches and pains than talk about them and feel the emotional ones. Don’t they understand that some things are better left unsaid, even to your therapist?

  • wendy

    November 14th, 2011 at 5:16 AM

    No one wants to talk about the painful things in their lives. It feels like pouring salt into a wound sometimes. But I also know how unhealthy not sharing can be too. Those are the things that lie beneath the surface and fester if you can’t talk about them and get them resoved. No it is not any fun to process all of that. It feels like you are dragging up those old feelings and we all have a tendency to want to press those down. But it is so much better to get them out and deal with them. And if there is a friend who you can see going through this then you gently need to lead them to sharing or at least get them some outside help who can help them deal with all of those emotions.

  • Genevieve

    November 14th, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    depression is so all consuming that it is difficult to share what is going on when all you can think about is bad you feel.

    i did not have the kind of depression where i sat around and cried all the time, but i was so lethargic and had no energy to go thru my daily life anymore.

    and the last thing that i wanted to do was maintain connections to people that i had before. i could not even be energetic enough to have a phone conversation.

    retreating was not the ideal course of action obviously but at the time it was the only thing that i could do in my life.


    November 15th, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Well I dont understand how you folks keep it within you and go through the suffering.If there is some troubling thought or anything at all in my mind I have to speak out about it to a friend and really it makes me feel a lot betta!

  • Melissa

    November 15th, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    I am with Molly. I can’t keep things all bottled up on the inside. That makes me feel like I am gonna explode!

  • Terence Ware

    November 20th, 2011 at 11:15 PM

    The biggest things become smaller when you share them and bad feelings are not an exception. I wish all were more open about their feelings and could know that it was okay to be so. Nobody is going to judge you as harshly as you think they are and even if they do, only you can give any credence to their opinion. Disregard it.

  • ellen roach

    November 21st, 2011 at 12:11 AM

    May I respectfully remind you that some of us don’t have Medicalese as a second language. I would have preferred this to be in simpler English. It shouldn’t take that many fancy words to say that people who don’t talk about their problems suffer stress-related pain. Spare a thought for those with a lesser vocabulary than yourself that would like to learn despite that limitation please.

  • Jordan Conrad

    November 21st, 2011 at 12:28 AM

    Yes! Terence is right on the money there. If they do judge you harshly, are they really your friends? That’s the question. A saying or quote by a man whose name escapes me right now states that a true friend is someone who can know everything about you and still be your friend. I can call a few people that kind of friend and am proud to say so.

  • Alfred Tirrell

    November 24th, 2011 at 2:17 AM

    @Jordan Conrad: That quote you mentioned? It was by Elbert Hubbard.

    I think it follows that people who don’t attach themselves to others properly are going to have the biggest problems talking to others. I wonder if a therapist could get a client to open up more if they were to spill their own emotions and get a load off their chest. Or maybe that would scare them away LOL. ;)

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