Depression and generalized anxiety, separately and as comorbid states, continue to represent a significant public health challenge. Current cognitive-behavioral treatments are clearly beneficial but there remains a need for continued development of complementary interventions. This manuscript presents two proof-of-concept studies, in analog samples, of "microinterventions" derived from regulatory focus and regulatory fit theories and targeting dysphoric and anxious symptoms. In Study 1, participants with varying levels of dysphoric and/or anxious mood were exposed to a brief intervention either to increase or to reduce engagement in personal goal pursuit, under the hypothesis that dysphoria indicates under-engagement of the promotion system whereas anxiety indicates over-engagement of the prevention system. In Study 2, participants with varying levels of dysphoric and/or anxious mood received brief training in counterfactual thinking, under the hypothesis that inducing individuals in a state of promotion failure to generate subtractive counterfactuals for past failures (a non-fit) will lessen their dejection/depression-related symptoms, whereas inducing individuals in a state of prevention failure to generate additive counterfactuals for past failures (a non-fit) will lessen their agitation/anxiety-related symptoms. In both studies, we observed discriminant patterns of reduction in distress consistent with the hypothesized links between dysfunctional states of the two motivational systems and dysphoric versus anxious symptoms.
Strauman, Timothy, Y. Socolar, L. Kwapil, J. Cornwell, B. Franks, S. Sehnert, and E. Tory Higgins. "Microinterventions targeting regulatory focus and regulatory fit selectively reduce dysphoric and anxious mood." Behavior Research and Therapy 72 (2015): 18-29.
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