Dampening of positive affect is associated with posttraumatic stress following stressful life events

Background: Treatments for posttraumatic stress (PTS) are effective for many but not all people. There is a continued need to further our understanding of psychological mechanisms involved in the development and maintenance of PTS. Research has examined dysregulation of negative affect (NA) in PTS but relatively little attention has been paid to the role of dysregulation of positive affect (PA) in PTS.


Objective: The current study sought to examine the incremental role of PA dysregulation – specifically self-focused and emotion-focused rumination (strategies to upregulate PA) and dampening (a strategy downregulating PA) in explaining variance in PTS, while taking into account neuroticism, plus more often-researched processes of NA regulation (i.e. brooding and reflection) and experiential acceptance and mindfulness – broader regulatory styles involved in PTS.


Method: Data were available from 473 students who completed measures about stressful life events experienced, PTS, and measures of PA dysregulation and all other variables of interest.


Results: Zero order correlations showed that dampening of PA but not self-focused and emotion-focused regulation of PA were associated with PTS total scores and PTS clusters of re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Multiple regression analyses revealed, among other things, that dampening of PA, neuroticism, brooding, and mindfulness (but not emotion-focused and self-focused rumination about PA, reflection, and experiential acceptance) explained unique proportions of variance in PTS when taking into account the shared variance between these variables.


Conclusions: Future research may continue addressing difficulties in regulating PA alongside difficulties regulating NA to improve the understanding of mechanisms maintaining PTS and to examine the usefulness of interventions improving PA regulation in the treatment of PTS.




• We studied dysregulation of Positive Affect (PA) in posttraumatic stress (PTS).

• Dampening of PA (but not positive rumination about PA) explained variance in PTS.

• Dampening contributed to PTS beyond neuroticism, NA dysregulation, mindfulness, and experiential avoidance.

Paul A. Boelen | 2021
In: European Journal of Psychotraumatology ; ISSN: 2000-8066 | 12 | 1 | januari | 1851077
Emotional Regulation, Life Experiences, Mindfulness (en), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychotrauma, PTSD (DSM-5), PTSD (en), Research, Stressors
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