Emotional Memories and Anxiety

Jerry Kennard Health Pro
  • Everyone has memories they’d like to forget and most people have memories they cherish, look back on fondly or that make them laugh. It may seem odd to talk about our ‘relationship’ with personal memories but the connection between memories, and our emotional reactions to them, appears to influence our levels of anxiety.


    We all have different way of regulating our emotions and the way our emotional memories affect us is shaped by our personalities our gender and the strategies we use to regulate our emotions. We know, for example, that people who score highly on neuroticism tend to focus on negative emotions when they are under stress. If this continues, they are also more likely to develop anxiety-related problems and possibly become ill with depression.

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    Some studies have begun to look at the strategies people use to regulate emotions when they recall positive or negative memories. For example, some people may exaggerate or focus mainly on the negatives while others are inclined towards putting a more positive spin on unpleasant memories – a process referred to as reappraisal. In 2012, Ekaterina Denkova and colleagues of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, published results of their study in the journal Emotion. They found that who used reappraisal when recalling negative memories were more likely to recall positive aspects. Men who attempted to suppress negative emotions were as likely to recall positive as negative memories. Where women were concerned, suppression of negative memories was significantly associated with lower moods afterwards.


    More recently, Nicole Llewellyn and colleagues established that use of reappraisal is associated with less social anxiety and less anxiety in general than those who avoid expressing their emotions.


    Even so, it is generally recognized that over-optimism can have its problems. For example, it may incline people to believe they are unlikely to contract illnesses or diseases if they don’t take suitable cautionary measures. Similarly, there are many times when keeping a lid on emotions is appropriate as a short-term strategy.


    Asking someone to adapt or change their personality is a pretty tall order but learning and practicing strategies to regulate emotions is something most of us are capable of.



    Ekaterina Denkova, Sanda Dolcos, Florin Dolcos. Reliving emotional personal memories: Affective biases linked to personality and sex-related differences. Emotion, 2012.


    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2013, May 13). To suppress or to explore? Emotional strategy may influence anxiety. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 5, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2013/05/130513083314.htm

Published On: June 05, 2013