Study: Interpersonal emotion regulation beneficial for countering depression in MS

May 20, 2022
Researchers demonstrated the effectiveness of a six-week interpersonal emotion regulation intervention for addressing the depression often experienced by individuals with multiple sclerosis. Interpersonal emotion regulation emerges as a low cost, accessible way to leverage the benefits of social supports in individuals with multiple sclerosis, in prospective, controlled randomized clinical trial. This study, the first to provide Class 1 evidence of IER’s efficacy in the MS population, is an important step in addressing psychological comorbidities. 

More than a third of people with MS have significant levels of depression and anxiety, which adversely affect daily life activities. These mental health issues tend to worsen over time, complicating the long-term treatment needed for this chronic neurological condition, according to Kessler Foundation researchers.

For the study, the authors randomly assigned a sample of individuals with MS to either the treatment or control groups. Participants in the treatment group worked with a trained interventionist to identify and implement personalized IER strategies over the course of six weeks. The control group met with the interventionist on the same schedule but did not modify the strategies that they typically used to regulate their emotions. Measured outcomes were depression, stress, quality of life, and self-reported social support. At follow up, depression levels had significantly decreased in the IER intervention group, while depression levels in the control group remained unchanged over the course of the study.

The researchers said the results show that as a low cost, easily implemented intervention that can be tailored to the individual, IER can add an important dimension to conventional mental health therapies. There are implications for other populations, as well. Because this IER intervention targets the basic mental process of emotion regulation, it has the potential to improve well-being in other conditions characterized by emotion dysregulation.

The article was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

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