Category: Transdiagnostic

Symposium

Interactive Effects Between Emotional Clarity and Distress Tolerance Predicting Deliberate Self-Harm and Suicidal Ideation

Friday, November 17
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: Aqua 310, Level 3, Aqua Level

Keywords: Emotion Regulation | Adolescents | Trauma
Presentation Type: Symposium

Background: Emotion dysregulation in general, and low emotional clarity in particular, are associated with increased risk for suicidal ideation (Barr et al., 2016) and deliberate self-harm (DSH; Viana et al., in press) among trauma-exposed youth. Yet, no studies to date have examined moderator variables influencing this relationship. One potential candidate is distress tolerance (DT), an emotion regulation-related factor associated with both DSH (Gratz et al., 2011) and suicide-related outcomes (Anestis et al., 2012). The present study examined relations and interactive effects between low emotional clarity and DT in predicting DSH and suicidal ideation in a diverse sample of trauma-exposed inpatient adolescents.


Method: Participants included 50 adolescents (52.0% female; Mage= 15.1 years, SD = .51; 44% White) in acute psychiatric care at an inpatient hospital. All participants experienced at least one traumatic event, and completed measures of emotion dysregulation (Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale [DERS]), DT (Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task- Computerized [PASAT-C]), DSH (Deliberate Self-Harm Inventory-Youth Version [DSHI-Y]), and suicidal ideation (Modified Youth Risk Behavior Survey [M-YRBS]).


Results: A significant interaction between low emotional clarity and DT was found. Adolescents with low emotional clarity yet higher DT reported higher rates of DSH (B = .08, SE = .03; 95% CI = .01, .14). A significant interaction between emotional clarity and DT predicting serious suicidal ideation was also found. Low emotional clarity predicted suicidal ideation at higher (B = .28, SE = .12, CI [.04, .52]), but not lower, levels of DT. Models were significant even after controlling for the presence of mood disorders, gender, and age.


Conclusions: Difficulties recognizing and accurately understanding emotions may be a clinically relevant target for intervention to reduce DSH among trauma-exposed youth. Given its role in the transition from suicidal ideation to attempts, findings also indicate that high DT—in the context of low emotional clarity—may help to identify trauma-exposed inpatient youth at greatest risk for DSH and suicide.  

Andres G. Viana

Assistant Professor
University of Houston

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