Emotional dysregulation can be a predictor of future psychological problems. People who experience overwhelming worry or fear may be at increased risk for the development of anxiety issues. Individuals who have difficulty managing their anger and repeatedly exhibit explosive outbursts may have aggressive tendencies later on in life. “High levels and prolonged duration of negative emotions and heightened emotional variability may be signs of emotional dysregulation,” said Anna Neumann of the Department of Developmental Psychology at VU University in the Netherlands. “Individual differences in emotion regulation and their relation with the development of psychopathology become especially relevant during the developmental period of adolescence.” Neumann recently led a study that examined how four emotions; happiness, anxiety, anger and sadness, influenced emotional regulation and emotional variability (EV), during adolescence. “Several cross-sectional studies demonstrate that in adolescence, high levels of negative emotions, and high levels of EV are related to symptoms of depression and externalizing problems.” Neumann added, “These findings are commonly interpreted as suggesting that emotion dysregulation influences the development of psychopathology.”
The researchers assessed adolescents from 230 area schools for their study. The 497 teens and their families were interviewed five times over a span of a year and a half and were evaluated based on the four emotions. The results showed that emotional dysregulation affected the girls more than the boys. “Females reported significantly higher levels of anxiety disorder symptoms and depressive symptoms than males at both annual assessments, while no sex differences were found for aggressive behavior. Females also reported higher sadness levels than males, but males and females did not differ on the levels of happiness, anger, and anxiety,” said Neumann. She added, “In addition to application to research and theory, the study of basic emotional processes in adolescence is also informative for prevention and intervention efforts, as early forms of emotion dysregulation can indicate risk for psychopathology. An important message regarding intervention from the present study, then, is to consider the entire emotional spectrum.”
Neumann, Anna, Pol A.C. Van Lier, Tom Frijns, Wim Meeus, and Hans M. Koot. “Emotional Dynamics in the Development of Early Adolescent Psychopathology: A One-Year Longitudinal Study.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 39.3 (2011): 657-69. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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