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An experimental and experience sampling study of emotion in people with generalized anxiety disorder

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posted on 24.05.2021, 07:52 by Elizabeth J. Pawluk
Difficulties with emotion and emotion regulation have a significant role in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), however, much remains unknown about the emotional profile of people with GAD. The emotion dysregulation model (Mennin et al., 2005) suggests that people with GAD experience emotions at a heightened intensity and use maladaptive strategies, including worry, to regulate their distress. This dissertation comprises two independent studies to test tenets of the model. Study 1 was a laboratory-based experiment to clarify if the heightened emotional intensity experienced by people with GAD is due to baseline arousal or emotional reactivity. The subjective emotional and physiological responses of people with GAD (n = 22) were compared to those of people with social anxiety disorder (SAD; n = 23) and nonclinical controls (NCC; n = 20) at baseline and following an emotion induction. The GAD group reported greater subjective intensity of negative emotions and lower intensity of positive emotions relative to the control groups. No differences were found across the three groups in their level of emotional reactivity. The findings highlight that baseline intensity, not emotional reactivity, accounts for the heightened emotional intensity reported by people with GAD. Study 2 was an experience sampling study to identify the emotional profile of people with GAD and examine direct effect of worry and of external events on negative and positive emotions in daily life. Relative to the NCC group (n = 41), the GAD group (n = 39) exhibited an emotional profile characterized by elevated mean intensity, greater instability and greater inertia of negative emotions and lower mean intensity, greater instability and lower inertia of positive emotions. Worry had a greater negative effect on the emotions reported by the GAD group relative to those of the NCC group. Finally, the groups did not differ in degree of emotional reactivity to negative events, but the GAD group reported a greater increase in positive emotion and a greater decrease in negative emotion following a positive event compared to the NCC group. Overall, the findings inform the emotion dysregulation model and provide unique insights into the dynamic emotional experiences of those with GAD.





Doctor of Philosophy



Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


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Psychology (Theses)