The Profile of Emotional Distress; Norms for the Romanian Population

Article excerpt


The Profile of Emotional Distress (PED) is an instrument elaborated to assess the subjective dimension of functional and dysfunctional negative feelings (affect). To our knowledge, this is the first self-report instrument, elaborated based on Albert Ellis's binary model of distress, designed to focus solely on the subjective dimension of emotions. Reliability, validity, and normation studies for the Romanian population were conducted on a group larger than 700 participants. Internal consistency coefficients (Cronbach's alphas) ranged from .75 to .94, which are considered good values for a self-report instrument.

Key words: binary model of distress, functional and dysfunctional negative feelings, rational emotive behavior therapy, reliability, validity, norms for Romanian population.


What we experience as content, sadness, worry, joy, fury, fear or regret results from the unique combination of the way we think, the way we behave and the bio-physiological changes taking place in our body when we face a life event. Emotions are therefore dependent variables of multiple changes at different levels (David, Holdevici, Szamoskozi, & Baban, 2000; David & Brown, 2002; Szentagotai, 2006). While the intensity of an emotion is mainly determined by the level of physiological arousal, its quality (e.g., the fact that we call it "fear" and not "sadness") results from the cognitive components implicated (Schachter & Singer, 1962; David & Szentagotai, 2006).

Even though from the lay perspective affectivity is seen as very complex system of emotions, researchers were able to demonstrate that there are only a few basic dimensions. In a series of studies, Watson and Tellegen (1985) proved that affect has two uncorrelated dimensions: positive emotions and negative emotions. Positive emotions are measured by the amount of pleasure and content experienced, while negative emotions are indicated by the degree of unpleasantness experienced (psychological distress).

Based on his extensive clinical experience, Ellis (1962; 1994) formulated the binary model of distress (David, Schnur, & Belloiu, 2002; David, Montgomery, Macavei, & Bovbjerg, 2005), separating for the first time the negative emotions in two categories: functional negative emotions and dysfunctional negative emotions. The functional or dysfunctional character of an emotion is given by: (1) the associated subjective experience, (2) the associated beliefs and (3) the behavioral consequences of the emotion (David & Szentagotai, 2006; Ellis & DiGiuseppe, 1993; Szentagotai & Freeman, 2006). This categorization is based on the qualitative difference that exists between emotions with the same valence (i.e., negative or positive) - difference due mainly to their underlying cognitions - and not on the variations of intensity (Ellis 1994; Ellis & Harper, 1975). In other words, a higher intensity of "sadness" is not called "depression", the difference between the two emotions coming from the specific beliefs underlying them (e.g., rational beliefs for functional negative emotions and irrational negative beliefs for dysfunctional negative emotions). At the subjective level, the differences between functional and dysfunctional negative emotions have been investigated in a number of studies, with results indicating the existence of some quantitative and qualitative differences between these two types of emotions (Kassinove, Eckhardt, & Endes, 1993; David, Schnur, & Birk, 2004; Opris & Macavei, 2005).

The Profile of Emotional Distress (PED) is an instrument elaborated to assess the subjective dimension of functional and dysfunctional negative emotions.


The PED is a 26-item self-report instrument that measures functional and dysfunctional negative emotions from the "concern/anxiety" and "sadness/depression" categories. The scale allows for the calculation of a general score of distress (all items) and also of separate scores for "concern - functional", "anxiety - dysfunctional", "sadness - functional" and "depression - dysfunctional". …