Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Fear of Emotions: The Role of Attentional Control


  • Dr. Marshall is supported by the National Institutes of Health's Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) program (1 K12 HD055882). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

  • We thank Fiona Barwick, Kaitlyn Hanley, Kelly Parker-Guilbert, Lauren Szkodny, and numerous undergraduate research assistants for their helpful contributions to participant recruitment and data collection.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Amy D. Marshall, Department of Psychology, 259 Moore Building, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802. E-mail:


Individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience elevated concerns about their capacity to control, and the consequences of, strong emotions that occur in response to trauma reminders. Anxiety is theorized to compromise attentional control (Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007). In turn, diminished attentional control may increase vulnerability to threat cues and emotional reactivity (Ehlers & Clark, 2001). Consequently, attentional control may play a role in the fear of emotions frequently experienced by individuals with PTSD. Study participants included 64 men and 64 women with a mean age of 37 years, 86% of whom were White, non-Hispanic. Participants experienced an average of 7.68 types of traumatic events, most commonly including motor vehicle accidents and intimate partner violence. PTSD symptoms positively correlated with fear of emotions (r = .53) and negatively correlated with attentional control (r = −.38). Attentional control was negatively correlated with fear emotions (r = −.77) and partially mediated the link between PTSD and fear of emotions (R2 = .22). Given the findings regarding top-down attentional control, these results have implications for cognitive and emotional processing theories of PTSD and emphasize the importance of clinical consideration of fear of emotions and attentional control in the treatment of PTSD.

Traditional and Simplified Chinese Abstracts by AsianSTSS


撮要:創傷後壓力症(PTSD)患者面對創傷提示時出現強烈情緒,因而加倍關注自身控制力及強烈情緒的後果。基本理論是焦慮影響注意力控制(Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos & Calvo, 2007),減弱的注意力控制則增加威嚇暗示及情緒反應的脆弱度 (Ehlers & Clark, 2001)。注意力控制因而在PTSD 患者的情緒恐懼中有重要角色。本研究樣本為64位男士和64位女士,平均年齡是37歲,86%為非西葡白種人,平均經歷7.68種創傷事件,多為交通意外或親密伴侶暴力。PTSD 症狀與情緒恐懼有正相連(r=.53),而與注意力控制有負相連(r=−.38)。注意力控制與情緒恐懼有負相連(r=−.77) ,而且片面地協調PTSD和情緒恐懼之間的關係(R2=.22)。基於從上而下的注意力控制,研究結果對PTSD的認知和情緒整理理論有啟發性,亦指出PTSD在臨床治療中須要關注情緒恐懼和注意力控制的影響。


撮要:创伤后压力症(PTSD)患者面对创伤提示时出现强烈情绪,因而加倍关注自身控制力及强烈情绪的后果。基本理论是焦虑影响注意力控制(Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos & Calvo, 2007),减弱的注意力控制则增加威吓暗示及情绪反应的脆弱度 (Ehlers & Clark, 2001)。注意力控制因而在PTSD 患者的情绪恐惧中有重要角色。本研究样本为64位男士和64位女士,平均年龄是37岁,86%为非西葡白种人,平均经历7.68种创伤事件,多为交通意外或亲密伴侣暴力。PTSD 症状与情绪恐惧有正相连(r=.53),而与注意力控制有负相连(r=−.38)。注意力控制与情绪恐惧有负相连(r=−.77) ,而且片面地协调PTSD和情绪恐惧之间的关系(R2=.22)。基于从上而下的注意力控制,研究结果对PTSD的认知和情绪整理理论有启发性,亦指出PTSD在临床治疗中须要关注情绪恐惧和注意力控制的影响。