Emotion regulation accounts for associations between mindfulness and depression across and within diagnostic categories

BACKGROUND: Previous research shows that mindfulness and emotion regulation (ER) are highly related to each other. Preliminary evidence in small clinical populations show that ER may partially account for the relationship between mindfulness and depressive symptoms. The present study aimed to investigate which diagnostic categories were associated with depressive symptoms after controlling for ER in a heterogeneous sample of treatment-seeking patients.

METHODS: A large sample of psychiatric outpatients (N = 911) completed the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID), Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS), and Clinically Useful Depression Outcome Scale (CUDOS). Partial correlations were conducted to evaluate to what degree the relationship between depression scores and facets of mindfulness were accounted for by ER scores.

RESULTS: When controlling for baseline mindfulness, the relationship between emotion dysregulation and depression symptoms remained significant for all data points; however, when controlling for baseline emotion dysregulation, the association between mindfulness and depression was not significant in the majority of cases. Nonjudging was most resistant to this result.

CONCLUSIONS: Although mindfulness is negatively associated with depressive symptoms, this association may be better accounted for by emotion dysregulation.

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