Fears of compassion magnify the effects of rumination and worry on the relationship between self-criticism and depression

Abstract

There is a well-established relationship between self-criticism and depression. This cross-sectional study investigated the roles that rumination, worry, and fears of compassion for self and from others play in this relationship. Undergraduate students and community participants (N = 417; 68% female; mean age 21.42 years [SD = 6.45]) completed online self-report questionnaires measuring self-criticism, depression, rumination, worry, and fears of self-compassion and receiving compassion from others. It was hypothesized that self-criticism would predict depression, partially mediated by rumination and worry, and moderated by fears of compassion for self and from others. The indirect effects of self-criticism on depression through rumination and worry were found to be conditional on levels of fears of compassion for self and from others. Fears of compassion for self and from others magnified the impact of self-criticism on rumination and rumination on depression; and fears of compassion from others magnified the impact of self-criticism on worry. These findings suggest that having high fears of compassion for self and from others potentiates the effect of self-criticism and repetitive negative thinking on depression. Fears of compassion from others and for oneself should be assessed and addressed alongside phenomena such as self-criticism and rumination when working with depression.

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All procedures received approval by the Griffith University Human Research Ethics Committee, Ref No: 2018/371. Students were asked to complete questionnaires online via Griffith University Online Research Survey Tool, based on the LimeSurvey online platform, which produced a SPSS data output file downloaded by the researcher upon the completion of data collection. An information sheet was included at the beginning of the online survey, with an option to consent or not to participate in the study. All subjects gave written informed consent in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. The participants’ confidentiality and anonymity was assured. There was also a reminder that participation was completely voluntary, and participants had the right to withdraw at any time. A debrief page at the conclusion of the study was used as a strategy to reduce possible risks. This directed participants to relevant support services in the event that they felt any discomfort as a result of their participation.

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Cavalcanti, L.G., Steindl, S.R., Matos, M. et al. Fears of compassion magnify the effects of rumination and worry on the relationship between self-criticism and depression. Curr Psychol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-01510-3

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Keywords

  • Self-criticism
  • Depression
  • Rumination
  • Worry
  • Compassion
  • Self-compassion
  • Fears of compassion