How Does Social Anger Expression Predict Later Depression Symptoms? It Depends on How Often One Is Angry

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Research has suggested that there are benefits to socially sharing anger as an emotion regulation strategy. We hypothesized that these benefits may depend on the frequency with which one is experiencing anger. We used an experience sampling methodology to explore the interaction between frequency of anger and reliance on social expression of anger as a predictor of changes in depression symptoms 4 months later. We found that a strong reliance on social expression prospectively predicted lower depression symptoms when participants endorsed anger infrequently but predicted an increase in subsequent depression symptoms when anger was endorsed frequently. This interaction was specific to anger and did not extend to sadness or anxiety. These results highlight the importance of considering the effectiveness of emotion regulation strategies in the context of specific emotions and the frequency of the experienced emotion in everyday life.

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