Trait Emotional Intelligence, Anxiety Sensitivity, and Experiential Avoidance in Stress Reactivity and Their Improvement Through Psychological Methods


  • Kenneth Choi
  • Kristin Vickers
  • Adrianna Tassone


Stress pervades daily society, often with deleterious consequences for those prone to react intensely to it. Intervention techniques to attenuate stress reactivity are thus paramount. With that goal in mind, researchers have sought to identify and alter malleable psychological dispositional variables that influence stress reactivity. Trait emotional intelligence (TEI), anxiety sensitivity (AS), and experiential avoidance (EA) are increasingly receiving attention in these research efforts. The self-reported emotional component of stress reactivity has been emphasized in investigations and is our focus. Specifically, this paper overviews the role of TEI, AS, and EA in self-reported stress responses. We also discuss empirically supported psychological methods to adjust suboptimal levels of these variables in normal populations. Both psycho-educational (information, skills) and mindfulness-based interventions (specific mindfulness therapies or components) are covered. Findings include that (1) TEI, AS, and EA are each correlated with the emotional component of stress reactivity to both naturalistic and lab-based stressors; (2) preliminary support currently exists for psycho-educational intervention of TEI and AS but is lacking for EA; (3) adequate evidence supports mindfulness-based interventions to target EA, with very limited but encouraging findings suggesting mindfulness methods improve TEI and AS; and (4) although more research is needed, stress management approaches based on mindfulness may well target all three of these psychological variables and thus appear particularly promising. Encouragingly, some methods to modify dispositional variables (e.g., a mindfulness-based format of guided self-help) are easily disseminated and potentially applicable to the general public.