What is it about?

We asked 113 adults through repeated mobile phone surveys multiple times a day for 5 weeks to tell us how negative their current mood was, whether they were trying to do anything to manage their mood, and if they were not trying to manage their mood, why not. We were interested in seeing if the reasons that people gave for not regulating their mood tended to differ based on whether they were someone experiencing relatively higher levels of certain mental health symptoms. We found that adults who reported experiencing higher levels of depressive symptoms, social anxiety symptoms, and difficulty managing their emotions in general were more likely to explain their lack of regulation attempts as being due to beliefs like “I didn’t want to put in the effort” or “I didn’t know what to do” or “I didn’t think I was capable” compared to explaining that they were not regulating simply because they were not experiencing any thoughts/feelings that they wanted to change.

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Why is it important?

Life is full of challenges and joys that bring up strong emotions, and being able to respond to those emotions effectively is an important part of maintaining mental, physical, and relationship health. Identifying potential barriers to a person's willingness or ability to try to respond to their emotions is an important step towards finding ways to improve overall health and functioning.


Most research to date has explored associations between various mental health conditions and the likelihood to use certain emotion regulation strategies over others. Our work takes a step back to ask the question, what might get in the way of someone even trying to regulate their emotions in the first place?

Katharine Daniel
University of Virginia

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Investigating psychiatric symptoms as predictors of the reasons people do not regulate their emotions in daily life., Emotion, July 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/emo0001260.
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