Clarifying the role of emotion dysregulation in the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior in an undergraduate sample

Michael D. Anestis, Courtney L. Bagge, Matthew T. Tull, Thomas E. Joiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


The interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior (IPTS; Joiner, 2005) has been subjected to a number of rigorous investigations and has shown to be a promising lens through which to understand suicide. One area thus far left unstudied with respect to the IPTS is emotion dysregulation. The bulk of the work examining the role of emotion dysregulation in suicidality has focused on suicidal ideation rather than behavior, with a number of studies reporting that emotion dysregulation is predictive of suicidal ideation (e.g., Lynch et al., 2004; Orbach et al., 2007). Studies examining suicide attempts have produced more ambiguous results. One way to clarify the nature of this relationship is to consider the construct of emotion dysregulation through an examination of specific subcomponents. In this study, we examined two specific components of emotion dysregulation - negative urgency and distress tolerance - and their relationships to all three components of the IPTS, thereby providing clarity for an otherwise poorly understood relationship. Results indicated that emotionally dysregulated individuals - those with low distress tolerance and high negative urgency - exhibited higher levels of suicidal desire, as indexed by perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness. In contrast, emotionally dysregulated individuals exhibited lower levels of the acquired capability for suicide and physiological pain tolerance. As such, a complicated but theoretically cogent picture emerged indicating that, although emotion dysregulation may drastically increase the likelihood of suicidal desire, it simultaneously serves as a form protection against lethal self-harm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-611
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


  • Emotion regulation
  • Interpersonal-psychological theory
  • Suicide


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