Three studies examined negative mood regulation expectancies (NMRE) and affective traits as independent predictors of self-reported symptoms of emotional distress. NMRE represent individuals' beliefs that they can alleviate unpleasant emotional states. Stronger NMRE are associated with more adaptive coping, more positive cognition during negative moods, more effective responses under stress and less emotional distress. Affective traits represent long-term tendencies toward particular affective experiences; they confer risk for specific symptoms of emotional distress. In Study 1, NMRE, trait negative affect (TNA) and trait positive affect (TPA) were all independently associated with depression among students and staff of a German university. In Study 2, in prospective analyses among U.S. college students traits exhibited hypothesised relationships with anxiety and depressive symptoms, and NMRE uniquely predicted anhedonic depression. Study 3 revealed independent prediction of change in symptoms over time by NMRE among U.S. college students, whereas traits were not associated with change in distress, anxiety and depression symptoms. Results suggest independent roles for NMRE and traits in the development of depression and anxiety symptoms and highlight the importance of NMRE as a potential target of therapeutic intervention in the process of symptom change.