Posttraumatic stress disorder and fear of emotions: The role of attentional control

Lauren M. Sippel, Amy D. Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience elevated concerns about their capacity to control, and the consequences of, strong emotions that occur in response to trauma reminders. Anxiety is theorized to compromise attentional control (Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007). In turn, diminished attentional control may increase vulnerability to threat cues and emotional reactivity (Ehlers & Clark, 2001). Consequently, attentional control may play a role in the fear of emotions frequently experienced by individuals with PTSD. Study participants included 64 men and 64 women with a mean age of 37 years, 86% of whom were White, non-Hispanic. Participants experienced an average of 7.68 types of traumatic events, most commonly including motor vehicle accidents and intimate partner violence. PTSD symptoms positively correlated with fear of emotions (r = .53) and negatively correlated with attentional control (r = -.38). Attentional control was negatively correlated with fear emotions (r = -.77) and partially mediated the link between PTSD and fear of emotions (R2 = .22). Given the findings regarding top-down attentional control, these results have implications for cognitive and emotional processing theories of PTSD and emphasize the importance of clinical consideration of fear of emotions and attentional control in the treatment of PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-400
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of traumatic stress
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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