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Behav Res Ther. 2014 Jul;58:43-51. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2014.05.006. Epub 2014 May 27.

Self-compassion as an emotion regulation strategy in major depressive disorder.

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University of Munich, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Research Group: Behaviour Therapy, Nußbaumstr.7, 80336 Munich, Germany. Electronic address:
University of Mainz, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Wallstr. 3, 55122 Mainz, Germany. Electronic address:
Boston University, 648 Beacon Street, 4th Floor, Boston, MA 02215, USA. Electronic address:
University of Mainz, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Wallstr. 3, 55122 Mainz, Germany. Electronic address:
University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Department of Psychology and Sport Sciences, Bismarckstr. 6, 91054 Erlangen, Germany. Electronic address:


Cognitive reappraisal and acceptance are two presumably adaptive emotion regulation strategies in depression. More recently, self-compassion has been discussed as another potentially effective strategy for coping with depression. In the present study, we compared the effectiveness of self-compassion with a waiting condition, reappraisal, and acceptance in a clinically depressed sample, and tested the hypothesis that the intensity of depressed mood would moderate the differential efficacy of these strategies. In an experimental design, we induced depressed mood at four points in time in 48 participants meeting criteria for major depressive disorder. After each mood induction, participants were instructed to wait, reappraise the situation, accept their negative emotions, or employ self-compassion to regulate their depressed mood. Self-ratings of depressed mood were assessed before and after each mood induction and regulation phase. Results showed that the reduction of depressed mood was significantly greater in the self-compassion condition than in the waiting condition. No significant differences were observed between the self-compassion and the reappraisal condition, and between the self-compassion and the acceptance condition in patients' mood ratings. However, the intensity of self-rated depressed mood at baseline was found to moderate the comparative effectiveness of self-compassion and reappraisal with a trend of self-compassion being more effective than reappraisal in high depressed mood at baseline. These findings support the use of self-compassion as another adaptive emotion regulation strategy for patients with major depressive disorder, especially for those suffering from high levels of depressed mood.


Acceptance; Cognitive reappraisal; Depression; Emotion regulation; Mood; Self-compassion

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