Emotion-related impulsivity predicts increased anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sheri L. Johnson, Patricia A. Porter, Kiana Modavi, Amelia S. Dev, Jennifer G. Pearlstein, Kiara R. Timpano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Emotion-related impulsivity, defined by poor constraint in the face of emotion, is related to internalizing symptoms, cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Internalizing symptoms, though, are profoundly tied to stress reactivity, and little is known about how emotion-related impulsivity relates to stress reactivity. Method: Taking advantage of a sample that had completed measures of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and two forms of emotion-related impulsivity before the pandemic, we asked participants to complete three weekly follow-up internalizing assessments early in the pandemic. Results: Among the 150 participants, pre-pandemic emotion-related impulsivity scores predicted higher depression, anxiety, general distress, and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Controlling for pre-pandemic scores, one form of emotion-related impulsivity (Feelings Trigger Action) predicted increased anxiety and general distress. We also examined how pre-pandemic emotion-related impulsivity was moderated by weekly COVID-related stress. One form of emotion-related impulsivity (Pervasive Influence of Feelings) predicted internalizing symptoms at low stress levels, and a different form (Feelings Trigger Action) predicted internalizing symptoms at higher stress levels. Limitations: Limitations include the small sample size, the absence of repeat measures of impulsivity, the attrition of individuals with more internalizing symptoms, and the reliance on self-rated measures. Conclusions: Forms of emotion-related impulsivity predict increases in anxiety and distress over time, but the interactions with stress levels appear to vary. Emotion-related impulsivity can be addressed with accessible intervention tools, suggesting the promise of broader screening for those at risk for internalizing symptoms during periods of high stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-299
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of affective disorders
StatePublished - Mar 15 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Covid-19 pandemic
  • Depression
  • Emotion-related impulsivity
  • Stress reactivity
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Urgency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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