Understanding the relationship between emotional and behavioral dysregulation: Emotional cascades

Edward A. Selby, Michael D. Anestis, Thomas E. Joiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

192 Scopus citations


Recent research suggests that many dysregulated behaviors, such as binge-eating and non-suicidal self-injury, often occur during times of emotional distress. These behaviors also appear to decrease negative affect. Why is it, however, that individuals engage in these behaviors to reduce emotional distress rather than taking a shower or talking to a friend? This study proposes the role of emotional cascades, an emotional phenomenon that occurs when an individual intensely ruminates on negative affect, thus increasing the magnitude of that negative affect to the point that an individual engages in a dysregulated behavior in order to distract from that rumination. The purpose of these studies was to examine the relationship between rumination and dysregulated behaviors, and in doing so determine if there is some support for the emotional cascade model of behavioral dysregulation. Using two different studies we were able to demonstrate that rumination is associated with some dysregulated behaviors, both cross-sectionally using structural equation modeling, and temporally using a two time-point method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)593-611
Number of pages19
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Binging
  • Emotion regulation
  • Impulsivity
  • Purging
  • Reassurance seeking
  • Rumination

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