All teens go through emotional turmoil, experiencing periods of high euphoria and sadness, fear or even anxiety. But a recent study suggests that teens that get stuck in an emotional state and experience emotional inertia are more likely to suffer major depression than teens that move freely through emotional climates. “How adolescents manage and regulate their intensified emotional life is a developmental challenge that is hypothesized to play a key part in the increased vulnerability for depression observed during this phase of the life span,” said Peter Kuppens of the University of Leuven and University of Melbourne, and lead author of the study. “In essence, it reflects the extent that one’s current emotional state is predictable from one’s prior emotional state. High emotional inertia thus reflects that a person’s emotional fluctuations show a high degree of momentum, with current emotional states being heavily influenced by previous states.”
Kuppens and his colleagues evaluated 165 adolescents ranging in age from 9-12, using the Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire-Revised (EATQ-R). The scale measured the temperament of the teens in relation to their ability to self-regulate, their emotional states, and their reactivity to situations. They also assessed them for depression and measured levels of anger, dysphoria and happiness at the onset of the study and again roughly three years later. For their study, the team instructed each teen and one family member to complete two tasks, one pleasant and one involving conflict. Based on the evaluations of their emotional inertia from these tasks, the researchers determined that the teens that got stuck in moods at the beginning of the study were more likely to development depression than those who exhibited emotional fluidity. The results showed that inertia for all three studied emotions was directly predictive of depression. “More importantly, they establish emotional inertia as a prospective risk factor for the onset of depressive disorder in adolescence, a life phase that involves a particular vulnerability for the development of mood disorder,” said the researchers. “Finally, our findings suggest the possibility that early detection of emotional inertia may help to identify youth at risk for mood disorder.”
Kuppens, P., Sheeber, L. B., Yap, M. B. H., Whittle, S., Simmons, J. G., & Allen, N. B. (2011, October 10). Emotional Inertia Prospectively Predicts the Onset of Depressive Disorder in Adolescence. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025046
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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