ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2024, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (6): 928-938.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2024.00928

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“A continuous process” and “three stages”: An analysis of the etiology of emotional dysregulation in depressed adolescents

ZHAN Ziwei1, WANG Mengmeng2, SUO Tao1, JIANG Yanju1   

  1. 1Faculty of Education, Henan University, Kaifeng 475004, China;
    2School of Business, NingboTech University, Ningbo 315100, China
  • Received:2022-05-18 Online:2024-06-15 Published:2024-04-07

Abstract: Currently, the prevalence of depression is increasing among children and adolescents, thereby raising concerns about emotional dysregulation in this population. The core symptoms of depression primarily manifest as low mood and anhedonia, indicating that individuals with depression exhibit deficiencies in regulating both negative and positive emotions, resulting in poor regulation efficacy. Emotional regulation ability serves as a pivotal factor for maintaining emotional stability and can assist adolescents in effectively managing their emotional states. Understanding the dynamic nature of emotion regulation and its multi-stage processing is crucial for comprehensively elucidating the characteristics and underlying causes of emotional dysregulation among depressed adolescents.
Previous research on the emotion regulation of depressed adolescents has primarily focused on specific characteristics at a particular stage, such as the selection and frequency of regulatory strategies. However, this approach not only overlooks the dynamic nature and process of emotion regulation but also fails to comprehensively capture the entirety of emotional regulation in depressed adolescents. Therefore, this article aims to examine differences in the complete process of emotional regulation between depressed adolescents and their healthy counterparts from an extended process model (EPM) perspective. The findings reveal that depressed adolescents exhibit deficiencies across all three stages of emotional regulation.
The present paper introduces several significant innovations:
(1) The Emotion Processing Model (EPM) posits that each stage of emotion regulation is associated with distinct decision points, implying the presence of potential critical junctures for emotion regulation failure in each stage. Any failure at any stage will consequently impact subsequent stages and the overall regulation process. Consequently, deficits in early emotional cognitive processing and strategy selection among depressed adolescents are likely responsible for their poor regulatory outcomes during the subsequent phase of strategy implementation. However, there remains a dearth of research investigating the dynamic effects of depression on the continuous process of emotion regulation. In terms of understanding emotion regulation, the Drift Diffusion Model (DDM) effectively captures both the dynamics and integrity inherent to this regulatory process, as well as its continuity across stages. Therefore, incorporating DDM into research can aid in reconstructing individuals' emotional regulation processes. Furthermore, this approach can be extended to studying emotional dysregulation among depressed adolescents, enabling us to propose more targeted intervention methods by exploring specific characteristics within each stage of emotional regulation.
(2) A review of previous studies reveals a contentious debate regarding the efficacy of directive cognitive reappraisal strategies in enhancing emotion regulation abilities among depressed adolescents, potentially attributed to variations in the severity of depressive symptoms examined across different studies. Consequently, future research should comprehensively investigate the characteristics associated with varying levels of depressive symptoms in adolescents.
(3) From the perspective of dual emotions in depression, the emotional dysregulation exhibited by depressed adolescents is primarily characterized by two aspects. Specifically, the abnormal emotional reactivity of depressed adolescents demonstrates dual characteristics: persistent low mood and anhedonia, with the latter corresponding to their impaired ability to enhance and regulate positive emotions. Given the limited research on positive emotion regulation in depressed adolescents that fails to fully elucidate whether and how it is influenced by the preceding phases mentioned above, as well as considering the significant role of positive emotion in individual mental health and social functioning, future studies on emotional dysregulation among depressed adolescents should also emphasize attention towards positive emotion regulation. This will enable a more comprehensive understanding of emotional regulation characteristics in depressed adolescents and facilitate exploration for optimal intervention strategies.
(4) Although the results cannot be effectively compared due to variations in depression levels among the subjects in each study, it can be generally inferred that providing guidance to depressed individuals on effective emotion regulation strategies and their implementation methods may enable them to utilize cognitive reappraisal strategies for regulating negative emotions to a certain extent. Therefore, future research could explore the impact of directive interventions incorporating cognitive reappraisal strategies on adolescent emotion regulation, thereby offering novel insights for optimizing future interventions.

Key words: depression, emotion regulation, adolescents, the extended process model

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