Do positive and negative emotional reactions during war predict subsequent symptomatology? A prospective experience sampling study

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While peritraumatic negative emotions have been associated with subsequent posttraumatic stress and depression, the predictive role of real-time emotional reactions to specific stressors during prolonged stress exposure is still unclear, particularly that of positive emotions. The current study uses experience sampling methodology to examine individual general levels of negative and positive emotions, and emotional reactivity to specific stressors during war, as prospective predictors of posttraumatic stress and depression. Ninety-six civilians exposed to rocket fire during the 2014 Israel-Gaza war reported exposure to rocket warning sirens and levels of ten negative and six positive emotions twice a day for 30 days. Symptoms of posttraumatic stress and depression were then assessed two months post-war. Participants reported higher negative emotions and lower positive emotions during assessment windows with sirens. Over time, negative emotions decreased and positive emotions increased. Higher levels of overall negative emotions predicted posttraumatic stress symptoms and depression symptoms two months later. Levels of positive emotions, and negative and positive emotional reactivity to sirens, were not associated with subsequent symptomatology. Our results indicate the stronger role of overall negative emotions as predictors of symptomatology compared with momentary emotional reactivity, and the stronger predictive role of negative compared with positive emotions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102492
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The first author (LLP) received a Ph.D. scholarship funded by the Laszlo N. Tauber Foundation, USA and Israel. In addition, the research was supported by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation , USA (Narsad Young Investigator Award to TG; 23524 ); The Moshe Hess Foundation, Israel (TG and MG); NATAL: Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center, Israel (MG and LLP); and the Israel Science Foundation (TG and MG; 1244/16 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Depression
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Experience sampling method
  • Peritraumatic negative emotions
  • Peritraumatic positive emotions
  • Posttraumatic stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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