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Deficits in adaptive emotion regulation (ER) and associated increased negative affects have been
suggested to be important risk factors for the development and maintenance of depressive episodes.
Facilitating adaptive ER skills should help individuals reduce negative affects if necessary
and may thus prevent the development, maintenance, and recurrence of Major Depressive Disorder.
This dissertation aimed to identify ways to foster adaptive ER in currently and formerly
depressed individuals. An emphasis was put on the construct of self-compassion.
In a cross-sectional study, we tested the hypothesis of increased self-criticism and decreased selfcompassion
and self-reassurance as stable vulnerability factors that persist over acute episodes of
Major Depressive Disorder (Study 1). As expected, both currently and formerly depressed individuals
showed higher habitual self-criticism and lower self-compassion and self-reassurance than
healthy and never depressed controls. In an experimental study, we tested the effectiveness of
self-compassion to decrease depressed mood in currently, formerly and healthy, never depressed
individuals (Study 2). Decreases in depressed mood were greater in the self-compassion condition
compared to the waiting and acceptance conditions. In recovered depressed and healthy, never
depressed participants, self-compassion was also more effective than reappraisal. In a longitudinal
study, we investigated prospective effects of various potentially relevant components of
adaptive ER (including Awareness, Sensations, Clarity, Understanding, Modification, Acceptance,
Tolerance, Self-Compassion and Readiness to Confront) on subsequent reduction in state negative
affect over the course of depression treatment (Study 3). Using latent change score modeling,
overall adaptive ER predicted subsequent reduction of state negative affect. Exploratory
analyses indicated that self-compassion and the following components of adaptive ER were significant
predictors of subsequent reduction of negative affect: the understanding of what has
caused negative affects, the self-perceived ability to regulate negative affects, emotional acceptance
and tolerance as well as readiness to confront distressing situations when necessary to
attain personally relevant goals.
A randomized-controlled trial should work to clarify whether systematically enhancing selfcompassion
and further potentially relevant components of adaptive ER with specific interventions
could help improving mental health, including decreasing depressive symptoms, in individuals
with Major Depressive Disorder (Study 4). Additionally, future studies on formerly depressed
and healthy, never depressed individuals will have to examine whether increasing adaptive ER
skills with specific interventions can help prevent the onset and recurrence of Major Depressive