Emotion Regulation and Mentalization in Patients With Depression and Anxiety

Anne Bryde Christensen*, Stig Poulsen, Trine Munk Højberg, Stine Bech Jessen, Nina Reinholt, Morten Hvenegaard, Anita Eskildsen, Mikkel Arendt, Sidse Arnfred

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Theoretical conceptualizations of emotion and affect regulation have a considerable common ground. However, mentalization theory considers the ability to regulate affects as being contingent on the ability to mentalize. The aim of the present study is to examine the association between emotion regulation and mentalization, operationalized as reflective functioning, in a sample of patients with depression and/or anxiety. Methods: The study used data from the TRAns-diagnostic Cognitive behavioural Therapy versus standard cognitive behavioural therapy (TRACT-RCT) trial. Patients with depression and/or anxiety (N = 291; 64.4% female; Mage = 32.2; SD = 11.0) completed the Emotion Regulation Strategies Questionnaire (ERSQ) and the Reflective Functioning Questionnaire (RFQ-6). Correlation and regression analyses were performed to determine associations of the measures of ERSQ and RFQ-6 in relation to the outcome variables, global well-being (World Health Organization Well-being Index; WHO-5) and social functioning (Work and Social Adjustment Scale; WSAS). Results: Overall, the patients had a reduced level of emotion regulation (MERSQ_Total = 1.77; SD = 0.59). However, only mildly impaired reflective functioning was found (MRFQ-6 = 3.57; SD = 1.26). ERSQ correlated significantly with RFQ-6 (r = −0.31), that is, more frequent use of emotion regulation strategies was associated with less hypomentalization. ERSQ was a stronger predictor of well-being and social function than RFQ-6. Conclusion: In patients with anxiety and/or depression, hypomentalization as measured by the RFQ-6 is not a major problem, but emotion regulation is. It seems that these two, theoretically related constructs, do not necessarily co-occur. Alternatively, the RFQ-6 scale might not capture the mentalization construct in a valid way. Emotion regulation strategies are highly related to symptomatology; therefore, they are likely to be an important target for psychotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2995
JournalClinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
Volume31
Issue3
ISSN1063-3995
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

Keywords

  • emotion regulation
  • ERSQ
  • mentalization
  • psychopathology
  • RFQ

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