Experiences of Interpersonal Emotion Regulation for People with Heightened Emotions: An Examination in People with Bipolar Disorder and Those with High Aggression
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interpersonal emotion regulation
emotion regulation
bipolar disorder


Most research on interpersonal emotion regulation (IER) has focused on nonclinical samples. On one hand, people with clinically significant emotion, mood, or interpersonal difficulties may encounter more challenges with IER. On the other hand, IER could potentially be a useful resource for addressing challenges related to intrapersonal emotion dysregulation. We analyzed data from two samples characterized by heightened emotionality: people who self-reported a history of bipolar disorder (N = 51) and people seeking treatment for aggression and emotional impulsivity (N = 199). For comparison, we analyzed data from two samples recruited without regard to clinical status: undergraduates (N = 389) and online respondents (N = 116). We assessed multiple aspects of participants’ experiences of intrinsic IER, including frequency of seeking and receiving IER, perceptions of provider responsiveness and provider hostility, perceptions of helpfulness, and reports of feeling ashamed due to receiving IER. We used two complementary methods: participants were first asked to report on their general experiences of seeking and receiving IER and were then asked to recall a rate a recent instance of receiving IER. Results were largely consistent across the two methods and the two comparison samples, providing a replication in-kind. Relative to the comparison samples, the aggression sample reported more negative experiences of IER, on average, including more difficulty obtaining IER, receiving less responsive support, encountering more hostility, and perceiving IER as less helpful. In contrast, the bipolar disorder sample appeared to be less distinct from the comparison samples. We discuss the implications of this apparent divergence.

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Copyright (c) 2023 Benjamin A. Swerdlow, Lesley Berk, Sheri L. Johnson