Regulating obsessive-like thoughts: Comparison of two forms of affective labeling with exposure only in participants with high obsessive-compulsive symptoms

Inbal Kreiser, Natali Moyal, Gideon E. Anholt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: A growing body of research has shown that mere expression of affective words (affect labeling) can help dampen emotional responses, as reflected by these words. Previous studies revealed that affect labeling can reduce physiological anxiety responses of subjects suffering from anxiety disorders. In addition, multiple studies have shown that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) individuals have difficulty understanding their own emotions. However, the effect of affect labeling is unknown for people with high- OC symptoms. Method: We used different forms of affect labeling (emotion generation vs. emotion categorization) to examine their effect on participants with high-OC symptoms, and to find if these forms can be learned and generalized. Using a mix-model design, we compared the effects of emotion generation labeling, emotion categorization labeling, and exposure alone during exposure to distressing obsessive thoughts, at two different times, using both physiological and self-reported fear measures. Results: At the first session, the emotion categorization group exhibited reduced fear physiological responses, compared to the other groups; however, it did not differ from the other groups in self-reported fear responses. At the second session, all groups revealed reduced physiological and self-reported fear responses, suggesting that affect labeling was neither learned nor generalized. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that affect labeling may help attenuate physiological anxiety responses in high- OC subjects. Furthermore, they suggest different effects for the different affect labeling forms. Future research exposing participants for longer durations may further elucidate the role of labeling in facilitating exposure effects.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)25-32
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Neuropsychiatry
Volume16
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2019

Keywords

  • Affect labeling
  • Affective words
  • Emotions
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (ocd)

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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