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Beliefs About Emotions, Negative Meta-emotions, and Perceived Emotional Control During an Emotionally Salient Situation in Individuals with Emotional Disorders

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Research has highlighted that emotion regulation (ER) difficulties are common in individuals with emotional disorders (ED). However, most studies were limited to non-clinical (NC) samples and focused on specific strategies to control emotions. Also, few studies investigated these difficulties “in-the-moment”. Thus, the current study aimed to investigate ER difficulties in individuals with ED that are usually neglected, such as difficulties in how they appraise their emotions (beliefs about emotions). Moreover, we examined the mediator role of irrational/dysfunctional beliefs about emotions in relation to the experience of negative meta-emotions and low perceived control of emotions. A number of 36 individuals with ED and 50 NC completed an emotion-provoking autobiographical recall task while their negative emotions, cardiac activity, beliefs about emotions, negative meta-emotions and perceived emotional control were assessed. Results indicated that compared to non-clinical controls, individuals with ED showed more irrational beliefs about emotions, more negative meta-emotions, and poorer perceived control of emotions. Also, our results showed that these irrational beliefs about emotions were further related to an increased level of negative meta-emotions and to a decreased perceived control of emotions. Finally, negative meta-emotions were differentially associated in the two groups with the control of heart rate by the two branches of the autonomous nervous system. Thus, individuals with ED may have difficulties in appraising emotions, which further expose them to maladjustment.

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The authors would like to thank every research assistant involved in conducting the experiment. AM is funded by a fellowship within the scope of a grant from MIUR-Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca (grant “Dipartimenti di Eccellenza” DM 11/05/2017 n.262) to the Department of General Psychology, University of Padova.

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All authors contributed substantially to this paper. Study conception and design: RP, DD. Data Acquisition and analysis: RP, DD, AM. Interpretation of data and manuscript drafting: RP, DD, AM.

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Correspondence to Daniel O. David.

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Răzvan Predatu, Daniel David and Antonio Maffei declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Predatu, R., David, D.O. & Maffei, A. Beliefs About Emotions, Negative Meta-emotions, and Perceived Emotional Control During an Emotionally Salient Situation in Individuals with Emotional Disorders. Cogn Ther Res 44, 287–299 (2020).

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