Emotion dysregulation has long been thought to be a vulnerability factor for mood disorders. However, there have been few empirical tests of this idea. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that depression vulnerability is related to difficulties with emotion regulation by comparing recovered-depressed and never-depressed participants (N = 73). In the first phase, participants completed questionnaires assessing their typical use of emotion regulation strategies. In the second phase, sad mood was induced using a film clip, and the degree to which participants reported to have spontaneously used suppression versus reappraisal to regulate their emotions was assessed. In the third phase, participants received either suppression or reappraisal instructions prior to watching a second sadness-inducing film. As predicted, suppression was found to be ineffective for down-regulating negative emotions, and recovered-depressed participants reported to have spontaneously used this strategy during the first sadness-inducing film more often than controls. However, the groups did not differ regarding the effects of induced suppression versus reappraisal on negative mood. These results provide evidence for a role for spontaneous but not instructed emotion regulation in depression vulnerability.
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