Emotion regulation difficulties and interpersonal problems during the COVID-19 pandemic: predicting anxiety and depression

The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing protocols aimed to slow its transmission are having severe mental health consequences.

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing protocols aimed to slow its transmission are having severe mental health consequences (Brooks et al., 2020; Ebrahimi, Hoffart, & Johnson, 2021; Hoffart, Johnson, & Ebrahimi, 2020; Holmes et al., 2020; Prati & Mancini, 2021; Salari et al., 2020; Xiong et al., 2020). Depending on peoples' typical ways of reacting to stressful circumstances, the pandemic will probably produce different mental health consequences. Among factors likely central to the exacerbation and persistence of psychological symptoms, personality-based processes such as difficulties in the experience and regulation of emotion (Solbakken, Hansen, & Monsen, 2011) and severity of interpersonal problems (Horowitz, Alden, Wiggins, & Pincus, 2000) are particularly salient candidates. Both factors are likely to be impacted by the pandemic and amelioration measures of societal lock-down and social distancing. As amelioration measures in turn are relaxed, this impact may presumably diminish, gradually returning these factors to pre-crisis levels. Difficulties in emotion regulation and interpersonal problems are, in turn, likely to predict symptoms of depression and anxiety throughout the pandemic and beyond, and early levels of these factors will presumably predict later developments in symptom status. Similarly, reductions in emotion regulation- and interpersonal difficulties during various phases of the outbreak will presumably coincide with reductions in psychological symptoms. Thus, emotion regulation difficulties and interpersonal problems are likely to be systematically predictive of the course of mental health problems during the pandemic.

Psychological Medicine, 2021, doi.org/10.1017/S0033291721001987

 

Published June 7, 2021 6:00 AM