We direct a research lab based at the University of Western Australia and Curtin University, called the Perth Emotion and Psychopathology Lab. Here, we have a team of over 25 academics and psychology students, all trying to advance the understanding, assessment, and treatment of mental health issues. Our work particularly focuses on emotion, as problems with emotion underlie many mental health difficulties. Scroll through below to read about some of our key research areas.
The way people regulate (i.e., modify or manage) their emotions has important implications for mental health and well-being. We study patterns of emotion regulation to identify and understand how emotions can be best regulated across different contexts.
Alexithymia is a trait where people have difficulties identifying and describing their own emotions. Alexithymia can put people at risk for a range of issues, including mental health disorders, loneliness, and relationship problems. This is because, if people have trouble being aware of their emotions, it can be more difficult to then go on and regulate those emotions effectively. Successful relationships often are also strengthened by close sharing of emotions, so difficulties communicating and understanding emotions (i.e., alexithymia) can make it harder to develop and maintain close relationships. A major focus of our research is on alexithymia and how it can be best assessed and treated.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety disorders are common mental health conditions that can significantly impair people’s quality of life. Our research examines the causes of depression and anxiety, and the common role that emotional awareness and regulation difficulties can play in these types of symptoms. Our research aims to advance theoretical understanding of depression and anxiety, resulting in better and more efficient treatment approaches.
Loneliness and Relationships
Loneliness is a significant and growing public health issue, with around 30% of people experiencing chronic or severe loneliness. We are examining the causes of loneliness, its links with emotion regulation and mental health disorders, and how loneliness can be best assessed and treated.
ADHD and Autism
In children and adults, ADHD and autism spectrum disorder can feature core difficulties in managing emotions. We are examining the links between emotion, ADHD, and autism, and how such understanding can best inform early identification and treatment supports.
Alcohol or Drug Problems
Alcohol or drug use problems often also occur alongside emotional disorders like depression and anxiety. In part, this can be because, some people feel that alcohol or drugs are all that they have to help them manage overwhelming and painful emotions. Our research looks at the role that emotions play in alcohol and drug use problems, and how this can inform better assessment and treatment.
Mindfulness is the enhanced, non-judgemental attention to and awareness of current experience. Mindfulness has received increased attention in the last few decades, both in popular and scientific media, and in psychological treatments. Mindfulness based interventions (MBIs) are intensive, skills-based programs aimed at reducing distress and improving well-being. There is a need to conduct research on the exact mechanisms through which mindfulness exerts its effects. We are investigating this area with particular interest in the way mindfulness relates to emotion regulation, alexithymia, and emotional reactivity.
Traumatic experiences or neglect, particularly in childhood, can interfere with how we learn to experience emotions and think about the world. We are researching the impact of trauma on emotion, and how this understanding can be used to help people best process and heal from traumatic experiences.