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Individuals lacking effective coping skills to manage aversive affective states are more likely to behave impulsively despite harmful long-term consequences. Urgency or the propensity to act rashly in response to negative affect is associated with a host of maladaptive behaviors. However, relatively little research has evaluated the impact of affective variables—such as emotion regulation—on urgency. Moreover, the role of urgency has not been examined in populations with mood and anxiety disorders, a group for whom maladaptive coping and avoidance behaviors are common responses to heightened affect. This study evaluated the association between urgency and three variables associated with the amplification of affect (anxiety sensitivity (AS), access to emotion regulation strategies, and distress intolerance).


Data were collected from an unselected community sample (n = 297) and a clinical sample with a mood and/or anxiety disorder (n = 99).


Results from a linear regression indicated significant associations between both distress intolerance and emotion regulation strategies and urgency. AS was significantly associated with urgency when considered alone, but did not remain significant when considered in the context of an alternative measure of distress intolerance and emotion regulation.


These findings suggest that intolerance of distressing states and lack access to a repertoire of emotion regulation strategies are strongly associated with acting impulsively in response to negative affect. Treatment implications and future research directions are discussed. Depression and Anxiety, 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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