Zachary Rosenthal, Ph.D., Duke University
Standard Research Grant (2008): $63,750
Using a Laboratory Measure of Emotion Regulation to Characterize Suicide Attempters
Abstract: Given the low base rate of attempted suicide and the limitation of self-report data collected from attempters themselves, there is a clear need to develop objective laboratory measures to identify underlying mechanisms that are amenable to treatment. This study hypothesizes that one such mechanism is a specific problem with emotion regulation, the inability to tolerate negative affect. To test this hypothesis, the investigators will compare the reactions of recently discharged suicide attempters to a validated laboratory stressor, a computerized math task that reliably induces frustration, to those of a matched sample of recently discharged patients who have not made suicide attempts. The task has a quit option, but also offers an incentive to persist. It is expected that the suicide attempters will show significantly less task persistence than non-attempters, even when given specific instructions and encouragement to tolerate the frustration and other negative feelings. Because it has been demonstrated that tolerance of negative affect can be increased with treatment, study results may lead to new treatments specifically designed for suicide attempters.