Emotion Regulation as a Transdiagnostic Factor in Afghan Refugees


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Abstract

Objective: In response to the high rates of comorbidity as well as the severe social impairment among refugees, the examination of transdiagnostic factors such as emotion regulation appears particularly promising in this group. This study investigates the contribution of difficulties in emotion regulation to the self-reported symptom levels of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety/insomnia, which are highly prevalent symptoms among refugees. In addition, the link between emotion regulation and social impairment is examined. Method: Participants were 74 male Afghan refugees exposed to trauma. They completed measures of trauma exposure, difficulties in emotion regulation (Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale), PTSD (PTSD Checklist for DSM–5), depression, anxiety/insomnia, and social impairment (General Health Questionnaire–28). Results: Higher symptom severities of PTSD, depression, and anxiety/insomnia were related to the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale subscales nonacceptance, goals, impulse, strategies, and clarity, but none of our outcomes was related to lack of emotional awareness. Difficulties in emotion regulation accounted for significant variance in PTSD, depression, and anxiety/insomnia beyond demographics and trauma exposure. When predicting social impairment, difficulties in emotion regulation accounted for significant variance beyond PTSD and anxiety/insomnia but not beyond depression. Conclusion: The findings indicate that emotion regulation may be a transdiagnostic key factor contributing to symptoms of different mental disorders as well as social impairment in trauma-exposed refugees. It highlights the need and potential directions for transdiagnostic interventions that target these difficulties.

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