Coping Strategy Depends on Strength of Emotion:
FRIDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- People tend to analyze
low-intensity negative emotions in order to defuse them but are
more likely to try to distract themselves when confronted with
high-intensity negative feelings, a new study finds.
For example, while sitting in a dentist's waiting room you might
try to distract yourself by reading celebrity gossip in a magazine,
explained study co-author Gal Sheppes of Stanford University. Or
you may deal with the situation by reminding yourself that you've
had worse experiences and that dental health is important for your
The study included healthy volunteers who were trained in the
two strategies -- distraction and reappraisal -- before undergoing
experiments to see which strategy they used to cope with negative
In one experiment, the participants were shown photos that
produced either low- or high-intensity fear (a non-threatening
snake or an attacking snake with its mouth open). In the other
experiment, they had to control their anxiety while waiting for
electric shocks. Before each shock, they were told whether it would
be a low strength or a more painful jolt.
In both experiments, the participants preferred to reappraise
the situation (think about it and tell themselves why it wasn't so
bad) when dealing with low-intensity negative emotions. But they
preferred to distract themselves when trying to cope with
high-intensity negative emotions, the researchers found.
The study is slated for publication in an upcoming issue of the
A better understanding of how healthy people regulate their
emotions could lead to new ways to help people with depression and
anxiety disorders, who have difficulty adjusting their emotions in
different situations, the study authors suggested.
"Maybe they need to learn when and when not to engage," Sheppes said in a news release from the Association for Psychological Science.
The Anxiety Disorders Association of America offers
tips to deal with anxiety and stress.
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