Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 428–438 | Cite as

Emotion Differentiation and Emotion Regulation in High and Low Socially Anxious Individuals: An Experience-Sampling Study

  • Mia Skytte O’TooleEmail author
  • Morten Berg Jensen
  • Hanne Nørr Fentz
  • Robert Zachariae
  • Esben Hougaard
Original Article


The present study explored when and how emotional difficulties and poor quality of life arise in the everyday lives of socially anxious individuals. 264 freshmen-year college students completed an online survey for 11 consecutive days. Comparing individuals high (HSA) and low in social anxiety, results revealed that irrespective of daily positive emotion differentiation ability, HSAs engaged daily emotion suppression strategies, pointing to inflexible emotion regulation. Furthermore, HSAs with poor daily negative emotion differentiation used the least daily cognitive reappraisal. Finally, both expressive suppression and cognitive reappraisal showed group-specific effects on daily positive affect. Daily expressive suppression was more strongly associated with diminished daily positive affect in HSAs, and HSAs benefited less in terms of daily positive affect from daily use of cognitive reappraisal. Based on these findings, emotion differentiation ability and emotion regulation appear relevant clinical targets for individuals with social anxiety disorder.


Social phobia Emotion differentiation Emotion regulation Positive affect Quality of life 



The study was funded by Aarhus University’s Graduate School of Business and Social Sciences.

Conflict of Interest

Mia Skytte O’Toole, Morten Berg Jensen, Hanne Nørr Fentz, Robert Zachariae and Esben Hougaard declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

All participants provided written consent prior to participation, and the local ethics committee, De Videnskabsetiske Komitéer for Region Midtjylland in Denmark, approved the study.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mia Skytte O’Toole
    • 1
    Email author
  • Morten Berg Jensen
    • 1
  • Hanne Nørr Fentz
    • 1
  • Robert Zachariae
    • 1
  • Esben Hougaard
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, School of Business and Social SciencesAarhus UniversityÅrhusDenmark

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