Cognitive- and Emotion-Related Dysfunctional Coping Processes: Transdiagnostic Mechanisms Explaining Depression and Anxiety’s Relations with Problematic Smartphone Use


Purpose of Review

Depression and anxiety symptoms typically demonstrate relationships with problematic smartphone use (PSU) across the literature. However, mechanisms involved in these relationships have not been widely reported. In this paper, we focus on important but relatively neglected transdiagnostic mechanisms between depression and anxiety with PSU, involving maladaptive cognitive and emotion processes. Cognitive processes we discuss include repetitive negative thinking (i.e., rumination and worry), boredom proneness, and the fear of missing out (FOMO). Emotion processes we discuss include emotion dysregulation and distress intolerance.

Recent Findings

Studies demonstrate support for maladaptive cognitive and emotion processes correlating with PSU severity, and serving as mediators between anxiety and depression with PSU.


Maladaptive cognitive and emotion processes are important transdiagnostic mechanisms that can account for relationships between depression and anxiety with PSU, and should be further studied.

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The position of CM is funded by a Heisenberg grant awarded to him by the German research Foundation (DFG, MO 2363/3-2).

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Correspondence to Haibo Yang.

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Dr. Elhai reports royalties from John Wiley and Sons, and Elsevier, and grants from Tianjin Normal University, US Department of Defense, and US National Institutes of Health outside of the submitted work. Dr. Montag reports grants from the German Research Foundation, during the conduct of the study. Dr. Haibo has nothing to disclose.

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Elhai, J.D., Yang, H. & Montag, C. Cognitive- and Emotion-Related Dysfunctional Coping Processes: Transdiagnostic Mechanisms Explaining Depression and Anxiety’s Relations with Problematic Smartphone Use. Curr Addict Rep 6, 410–417 (2019).

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  • Problematic smartphone use
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Maladaptive cognitions
  • Coping
  • Rumination
  • Transdiagnostic factors