Emotional reactivity to war stressors: An experience sampling study in people with and without different psychiatric diagnoses

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There is a lack of knowledge regarding real-time emotional reactivity to high-intensity stressors, particularly in people with mental illness, a potentially vulnerable population. The current study aimed to examine negative emotional reactions to recurring high-intensity stressors within a continuous war situation, in people with different psychiatric diagnosis types. Experience sampling method was used to examine emotional reactions among 143 civilians exposed to rockets during the 2014 Israel–Gaza war, of them 18.2% with psychosis, 14.7% with anxiety or depression and 67.1% without mental illness. Participants reported exposure to rocket warning sirens and the levels of 10 negative emotions twice a day for 30 days. Negative emotional levels were higher on most emotions following high-intensity stressors (sirens), that is, emotional reactivity was demonstrated in real-time during war. Overall, no difference in reactivity was found among the three study groups. Moreover, people with anxiety/depression were less reactive than people without mental illness on sadness and being overwhelmed. The findings indicate similar and sometimes lower emotional reactivity to high-intensity stressors in people with mental illness compared to the general population. Nevertheless, people with mental illness seem to have significant emotional needs during war, to be addressed in prevention and intervention efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-139
Number of pages13
JournalStress and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Gabriel Liberman and Amir Hefetz from Datagraph Statistical Consulting for their statistical support. We also want to thank Shulamit Grinapol for her contribution to establishing the study. This work was supported by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (Narsad Young Investigator Award to Talya Greene; 23524), The Moshe Hess Foundation (Talya Greene and Marc Gelkopf), NATAL: Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center (Marc Gelkopf and Liron Lapid Pickman) and the Israel Science Foundation (Talya Greene and Marc Gelkopf; 1244/16).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • anxiety
  • depression
  • emotional reactivity
  • experience sampling method (ESM)
  • psychosis
  • war

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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