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Most forms of adult psychopathology are characterized by frequent and high levels of negative emotions. Individuals with these disorders develop a variety of strategies to regulate their distress, and many of these strategies occur in an interpersonal context. This presentation will focus on two disorders, anorexia nervosa and obsessive-compulsive disorder, with a consideration of how these “individual disorders” are expressed differently in interpersonal interactions. Basic research findings on interpersonal aspects of these disorders served as the basis for the development of our cognitive-behavioral interventions that include the partner in treatment. Our initial findings regarding the efficacy of these recently developed couple-based interventions will be described. In addition, we have conducted laboratory studies to investigate whether persons with these two disorders use different individual and interpersonal emotion regulation strategies. Using voice stress during couples’ conversations as an unobtrusive measure of emotional arousal, these studies demonstrate how partners attempt to help each other regulate negative emotions over the course of a conversation, with implications for refining interventions in the future.

 

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