Date of Award

8-9-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Akihiko Masuda, PhD

Second Advisor

Page Anderson, PhD

Third Advisor

Kevin Swartout, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Lizabeth Roemer, PhD

Abstract

Ways to reduce the impact of worry in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have received little experimental research attention. Previous research has found that those with GAD are vulnerable to negative emotionality immediately following periods of worry; emotion regulation strategies could be useful to mitigate reactivity following worry. One promising strategy is mindfulness, defined as sustained attention toward the present moment with an attitude of curiosity and acceptance. Experimental research has found that mindfulness reduces negative affect and improves emotion regulation. This strategy is likely more effective than thought suppression, a common strategy used in GAD.

This online study recruited 300 individuals with analogue GAD who completed several self-report measures of worry severity, emotion dysregulation, mindfulness, and experiential avoidance and underwent experimental inductions of worry (versus no-worry control) and regulation strategy (mindfulness versus thought suppression versus no-strategy control) before watching a sad film clip and reporting state affect and emotion dysregulation.

Contrary to hypotheses, the mindfulness manipulation did not have a buffering effect on the relation between worry and negative affect or emotion dysregulation. The only predicted significant finding indicated that the mindfulness manipulation had a main effect on negative affect, with visual trends indicating that this effect was driven by those who did not worry. An exploratory analysis indicated that a mindfulness manipulation increased positive affect following worry, however. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.

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