Feelings of psychological defeat are common symptoms of many mental health problems. In some research, psychological defeat has been linked to the onset of psychosis and other challenges. “Defeat may also contribute to the development and maintenance of schizophrenia,” said Judith Johnson of the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham in the UK and lead author of a recent study on defeat and emotion. “Perceptions of defeat have been associated with the onset and exacerbation of a range of psychiatric conditions and disorders, including depression, anxiety, and suicide,” said Johnson. “Thus, the aim of the current research was to investigate the extent to which the emotion regulation strategy of reappraisal moderated the impact of failure on perceived defeat among both a nonclinical sample and individuals diagnosed with a schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, for whom perceived defeat may be particularly important.”
For her study, Johnson focused on the effects of trait reappraisal, the frequency with which people use reappraisal. In the first part of the study, over 100 undergraduate students were evaluated for trait reappraisal as they completed tasks designed to elicit feelings of failure or success. “Specifically it was found that higher frequency of reappraisal was associated with greater increases in sadness and negative affect and greater decreases in calmness after an experience of failure,” said Johnson. In the second part, Johnson examined trait reappraisal in people diagnosed with schizophrenia and found similar results. “Supporting the prediction, it was found that reappraisal amplified the difference in defeat between individuals in the failure and success conditions. Specifically, results suggested that the highest increases in self-reported defeat were among frequent reappraisers who experienced failure,” said Johnson, noting that the findings have significant clinical implications. She added, “Frequent use of reappraisal may confer vulnerability to subjective defeat in response to stressful life events among nonclinical and clinical populations and could be an area for relapse prevention interventions to target.”
Johnson, Judith, Patricia A. Gooding, Alex M. Wood, Peter J. Taylor, and Nicholas Tarrier. “Trait Reappraisal Amplifies Subjective Defeat, Sadness, and Negative Affect in Response to Failure versus Success in Nonclinical and Psychosis Populations.”Journal of Abnormal Psychology 120.4 (2011): 922-34. Print.
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