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J Anxiety Disord. 2013 Mar;27(2):188-96. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2013.01.003. Epub 2013 Feb 13.

Emotion regulation difficulties as a prospective predictor of posttraumatic stress symptoms following a mass shooting.

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Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115, United States.


A strong positive association between emotion regulation difficulties (ERD) and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) has been consistently evidenced in cross-sectional research. However, a lack of prospective research has limited hypotheses regarding the temporal relationship between trauma exposure, ERD, and PTSS. The present prospective study investigated the role of pre-trauma difficulties with emotion regulation in the development of PTSS following exposure to a potentially traumatic event. Between Time 1 (T1) and Time 2 (T2), a mass shooting occurred at the participants' (n=691) university campus. ERD and PTSS were assessed prior to the shooting (T1), in the acute aftermath of the shooting (T2), and approximately eight months later (T3). Using a cross-lagged panel design, ERD was found to prospectively predict PTSS from T1 to T2 and T2 to T3. Additionally, PTSS prospectively predicted ERD from T1 to T2. However, T2 PTSS failed to predict T3 PTSS. Results indicate that ERD and PTSS are reciprocally influential from pre- to post-shooting. Further, results suggest that emotion dysregulation in the aftermath of a potentially traumatic event influences one's ability to recover from PTSS over time, even after accounting for the effects of existing symptomatology. To examine the specificity of temporal relations between ERD and PTSS a second cross-lagged panel design, in which a general distress construct was substituted for PTSS, was conducted. Results of this analysis, as well as conceptual and clinical implications, will be discussed.

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