Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 910–925 | Cite as

Depressive Suppression: Effects of Emotion Suppression on Multiple Emotions for Depressed Versus Nondepressed Individuals

  • Matthew BolandEmail author
  • Anthony Papa
  • Elysia Oliver
  • Robert del Carlo
Original Article


Clinical theory from multiple psychological perspectives, including cognitive therapies, have long suggested that the maladaptive use of strategies to regulate emotion play a central role in the development and maintenance of psychopathology. This consideration may be particularly salient for depressive symptoms, given the prevalence of multiple negative emotions in the context of depression and the recently established tendency for depressed individuals to suppress emotions. We experimentally tested whether emotional and physiological effects of emotion suppression in response to separate sadness and anxiety inductions are moderated by depressive symptoms. Results indicated no effect of suppression on self-reported sadness compared to control condition for depressed or nondepressed participants (total N = 113). However, suppressing anxiety led to a reduction in self-reported anxiety compared to control condition for nondepressed participants, but there was no effect of suppression on anxiety among depressed participants. A similar pattern emerged for cardiac responding during both inductions. Results suggest that the effects of suppression depend on the emotion suppressed and on one’s level of depressive symptoms. Depressed participants’ difficulty mitigating state anxiety also suggests that depressed individuals have difficulty regulating certain emotions, but not others. Further implications for theoretical understanding, assessment of psychopathology, and clinical practice are discussed.


Emotion suppression Emotion regulation Depression Depressed affect State anxiety Cardiac responding 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Matthew Boland, Anthony Papa, Elysia Oliver, and Robert del Carlo declare that they have no conflict of interest. The authors received no funding from an external source or granting agency for this study. The first author received a small internal department grant that was used to offer optional financial compensation to participants (as discussed in Methods section of the study manuscript) and to purchase electrodes for heart rate measurements. This small grant was not used for other purposes for this study.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed involving human participants in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, San Diego, School of MedicineLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.University of Nevada, RenoRenoUSA
  3. 3.Oregon State University, CascadesBendUSA
  4. 4.University of Nevada School of MedicineRenoUSA

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