Difficulties with emotion regulation in depression may be linked not only to emotion regulation strategies but also to the motivation to experience certain emotions. We assessed the degree of motivation to experience happiness or sadness in major depressive disorders outside the laboratory and prospective links to clinical outcomes over time. Depressed individuals were consistently less motivated to experience happiness and more motivated to experience sadness than nondepressed individuals. The less motivated participants were to experience happiness, the less they tried to upregulate happiness in an emotion regulation task and downregulate negative emotions during real-life stress. Importantly, the less motivated depressed participants were to experience happiness, the more clinical symptoms they exhibited months later during a stressful period, even after controlling for initial levels of symptoms. These findings demonstrate that individual differences in the degree of motivation to experience happiness in depression may carry clinical implications.
- emotion regulation
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