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Numbing of Positive, Negative, and General Emotions: Associations With Trauma Exposure, Posttraumatic Stress, and Depressive Symptoms Among Justice-Involved Youth

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2016
9 pages
This study examined whether numbing of positive emotions was associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms above and beyond numbing of negative emotions, general emotional numbing, or depressive symptoms among at-risk adolescents.
Increasing attention has been drawn to the symptom of emotional numbing in the phenomenology of PTSD, particularly regarding its implications for maladaptive outcomes in adolescence such as delinquent behavior. One change in the definition of emotional numbing according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) was the limitation to the numbing of positive emotions. Previous research with youth, however, has implicated general numbing or numbing of negative emotions in PTSD; whereas numbing of positive emotions may overlap with other disorders, particularly depression. For the current study’s sample of 221 detained youth (mean age = 15.98 years, SD = 1.25; 50.7 percent ethnic minority), results of hierarchical multiple regressions indicated that only general emotional numbing and numbing of anger accounted for significant variance in PTSD symptoms (total R2 = .37). In contrast, numbing of sadness and positive emotions were statistical correlates of depressive symptoms (total R2 = .24). Further tests using Hayes’ Process macro showed that general numbing, 95 percent CI [.02, .45], and numbing of anger, 95 percent CI [.01, .42], demonstrated indirect effects on the association between trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: April 1, 2016