The Impact of Experiential Avoidance on Reduced Positive Emotional Responsivity in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Copestake, Claudia Catarina
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Experiential avoidance (EA), or the evasion of unpleasant internal experiences, is key to changes in emotional responsivity in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). EA has been linked to altered negative emotional reactivity in PTSD, but it remains unclear whether EA is linked to altered positive reactivity in PTSD, i.e. anhedonia. Therefore the study examined how manipulating EA influences emotional responsiveness in a non-clinical adult population (N=74). Positive emotion reactivity (self-report and psychophysiology) was measured before and after viewing a laboratory analogue trauma induction, with half of participants instructed to adopt the detached protector (DP) mode as an example of EA during trauma viewing and half of participants in an uninstructed control condition. Following the DP mode instructions reduced negative emotion experience during the trauma induction, relative to the control condition. However counter to prediction, there was no carry over onto blunted positive emotion experience or psychophysiological response in the experimental condition (relative to the control condition) when recalling positive memories and imagining positive future events. No significant relationships were identified between trait EA levels and anhedonia symptoms or pre-manipulation positive emotional responsiveness in the laboratory. Overall, the current findings offer no support for the hypothesis that EA contributes to anhedonia.
Doctorate of Clinical Psychology