Theories of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) implicate emotional processes, including difficulties utilizing adaptive emotion regulation strategies, as critical to the etiology and maintenance of PTSD. Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn (OIF/OEF/OND) veterans report high levels of combat exposure and PTSD. We aimed to extend findings suggesting that emotion regulation difficulties are a function of PTSD, rather than combat trauma exposure or common comorbidities, to OIF/OEF/OND veterans, in order to inform models of PTSD risk and recovery that can be applied to returning veterans. We tested differences in emotion regulation, measured with the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale and Emotion Regulation Questionnaire, among trauma-exposed veterans with (n = 24) or without PTSD (n = 22) and healthy civilian comparison participants (n = 27) using multivariate analyses of covariance, adjusting for major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and demographic variables (age, sex, and ethnicity). Veterans with PTSD reported more use of expressive suppression and more difficulties with emotion regulation than veterans without PTSD and healthy comparison participants. Groups did not differ on cognitive reappraisal. Findings suggest the key role of PTSD above and beyond trauma exposure, depression, and anxiety in specific aspects of emotion dysregulation among OIF/OEF/OND veterans. Interventions that help veterans expand and diversify their emotion regulation skills may serve as helpful adjunctive treatments for PTSD among OIF/OEF/OND veterans.
- emotion regulation
- expressive suppression