Emotion Regulation Protects Against Recurrence of Depressive Symptoms Following Inpatient Care for Major Depressive Disorder

David D. Ebert, Lisa Hopfinger, Claudi L.H. Bockting, Matthias Berking

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Relapse following response in psychotherapy for major depressive disorder (MDD) is a major concern. Emotion regulation (ER) has been discussed as a putative emerging and maintaining factor for depression. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether ER protects against recurrence of depression over and above residual symptoms of depression following inpatient care for MDD. ER skills (ERSQ-ES) and depression (HEALTH-49) were assessed in 193 patients with MDD (age, M = 47.4, SD = 9.6, 75.1% female, 100% Caucasian) at treatment discontinuation, 3 and 12 months after treatment. Multiple hierarchical regressions were used to examine general and specific ER as predictors of depressive symptoms at follow-ups. Higher general ER predicted lower depression over and beyond residual symptoms of depression at 3-month follow-up among treatment responders but not among treatment nonresponders. With regard to specific ER skills, readiness to confront and acceptance of undesired emotions predicted lower depressive symptoms beyond residual symptoms of depression 12 months, respectively 3 and 12 months after treatment. Findings of the present study indicate that targeting general ER might be more important for remitted and less important for nonremitted patients. Enhancing ER should hence be realized in a sequential treatment design, in which a continuation phase treatment with a specific focus on ER directly follows, once patients sufficiently responded to treatment. Acceptance of undesired emotion and readiness to confront situations that cue these emotions appear to be particularly important for protecting against recurrence of depression. Future research should clarify whether findings can be generalized to outpatient care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-749
Number of pages11
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • acceptance
  • depression
  • emotion regulation
  • psychotherapy
  • relapse


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