Georgia Panayiotou

Georgia Panayiotou

Ph.D. in clinical psychology, Chairman, Department of Psychology, University of Cyprus.


To feel or not to feel? Εmotions and how we cope with them in psychopathology and health

Emotions are essential for survival and prepare us for action. In spite of their adaptive function, emotions are implicated in many forms of psychopathology. Chronic, unregulated negative affect is also related to increased stress and can predict physical health problems. Understanding how emotions “go wrong”, is essential for uncovering the etiology of psychological disorders. It can also contribute to appropriate diagnosis and case formulation and the design of targeted, effective interventions for mental health and for the prevention of stress-related health problems. 

Our own research, using multiple methodologies, focuses on studying dysfunctions in valence and arousal emotional systems, and their interaction with cognitive processes like attention and self-regulation, including emotion regulation and coping. We study a wide range of disorders including anxiety disorders, externalizing and psychosomatic symptoms and try to identify common and unique emotional processes, and understand if core aberrations in basic mechanisms can help explain comorbidity between symptom categories and heterogeneity within them. Of particular interest to us are difficulties in processing and responding to threatening information and how aberrant fear and anxiety responses, and maladaptive attempts to regulate them, characterize disorders with very different phenotypic presentations. 

Such basic science, can then inform specific interventions that address these emotional difficulties. It can help redesign existing therapeutic approaches, understand their mechanisms of action, or develop new ones that address trans-diagnostic etiological and maintenance mechanisms, increasing their effectiveness for each individual.