Mood dysregulation and affective instability in emerging adults with childhood maltreatment: An ecological momentary assessment study

  • Teicher M
  • Ohashi K
  • Lowen S
 et al. 
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Childhood maltreatment increases risk for mood, anxiety, substance use and personality disorders and is associated with alterations in structure, function and connectivity of brain regions involved in emotional regulation. We sought to assess whether maltreatment was specifically associated with disturbances in positive or negative mood regulation. Ecological momentary ratings were collected with a wristwatch-like device with joy-stick (Seiko ecolog) approximately six times per day over a week in 60 unmedicated participants (22 control, 38 maltreated, 18?25 years old). Forty-five percent of maltreated subjects had a history of major depression but all were currently euthymic. Principal component analysis with varimax rotation was used to provide orthogonal measures of positive and negative valence, which were analyzed for indices of variability, circadian rhythmicity and persistence, using linear and non-linear hierarchical modeling and Hurst analysis. Groups did not differ in mean levels of positive or negative affect. Maltreated subjects had increased variability and circadian and hemicircadian abnormalities in ratings of positive but not negative affect. Conversely, they had higher estimated Hurst exponents for negative but not positive affect ratings indicating a greater degree of persistence. Abnormalities in variability, rhythmicity and persistence were present in both maltreated subjects with and without histories of major depression. These findings suggest that both positive and negative valence systems may be dysregulated in individuals with childhood maltreatment. However the nature of the dysregulation appears to differ fundamentally in these domains, as positive mood ratings were more variable and negative ratings more persistent.

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  • Martin H Teicher

  • Kyoko Ohashi

  • Steven B Lowen

  • Ann Polcari

  • Garrett M Fitzmaurice

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