The Impact of Emotion Regulation On the Relationship Between Momentary Negative Affect and End-of-Day Worry and Rumination

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Background: Negative self-referential processing (NSRP), including worry and rumination, is a hallmark feature of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Negative affect relates to NSRP, and emotion regulation skills (e.g., reappraisal and acceptance) may attenuate this relationship. This ecological momentary assessment study explored whether increased emotion regulation skills use would alter associations between daily fluctuations of negative affect and end-of-day NSRP.

Methods: Participants were 99 young adults (Mage = 19.94; SD = 1.81), diagnosed with GAD (n = 48) and healthy controls (n = 51). They provided twice daily ratings of negative affect, reappraisal, and acceptance over 14 days, and end-of-day ratings of NSRP. Mixed linear models adjusted for covariates, including state-level worry and rumination.

Results: Individuals with GAD reported higher levels of negative than controls, and high negative affect corresponded to greater end-of-day NSRP across all participants. Increased emotion regulation skills altered the relationship between increased negative affect and higher NSRP, though this did not differ by group. Acceptance and reappraisal differentially affected associations between negative affect and NSRP.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that emotion regulation skills moderate the relationship between negative affect and end-of-day NSRP, highlighting the utility of using reappraisal and acceptance in daily life. This could eventually lead to improvements in treating GAD.

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Cognitive Therapy and Research



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