Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer
Projects and researches
Published: 2023-12-21

Emotional self-regulation in depression and anxiety. The moderating role of empathy

University of Bucharest
University of Bucharest
depression anxiety emotional self-regulation empathy


The aim of this study is to analyze the relationships between emotional self-regulation and the most prevalent psychological disorders at the moment, anxiety and depression. At the same time, we aim to investigate the moderating role of empathy in tjis relationship. The study was conducted on a sample of 145 participants aged between 20 and 46, M = 23.89, SD = 5.33. The instruments used were Emotion Regulation Questionnaire, Toronto Empathy Questionnaire, and Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (subscales for depression and anxiety). The results highlighted that ineffective emotional self-regulation is significantly and positevely associeted with anxiety. However, emotional ineffective self-regulation was not significantly associeted with depression. According to the results, empathy does not moderate the relationship between innefective emotional self-regulation and anxiety. The results of our study emphasise the necessity for giving a special attention to the factors involved in anxiety and depression, including emotional self-regulation and empathy.


  1. Akiskal, H. S. (1998). Toward a definition of generalized anxiety disorder as an anxious temperament type. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 98(s393), 66–73.
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5 th ed.).
  3. Astin, H. S. (1967). Assessment of Empathic Ability by Means of a Situational Test. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 14(1), 57–60.
  4. Bardeen, J. R., & Fergus, T. A. (2014). An examination of the incremental contribution of emotion regulation difficulties to health anxiety beyond specific emotion regulation strategies. Journal of anxiety disorders, 28(4), 394–401.
  5. Bargh, J. A. (1990). Auto-motives: Preconscious determinants of social interaction. Handbook of motivation and cognition: Foundations of social behavior, 2, 93-130.
  6. Bargh, J. A., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (1994). Environmental control over goal-directed action. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 41, 71–124.
  7. Batson, C. D. (2009). These things called empathy: eight related but distinct phenomena. The Social Neuroscience of Empathy, 3-15. Boston Review.
  8. Beauregard, M., Paquette, V., & Levesque, J. (2006). Dysfunction in the neural circuity of emotional self-regulation in major depressive disorder. NeuroReport, 17(8), 843-846. https://doi:10.1097/01.wnr.0000220132.32091.9f
  9. Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., Beck, J. S., & Newman, C. F. (1993). Hopelessness, Depression, Suicidal Ideation, and Clinical Diagnosis of Depression. Suicide and Life-Threating Behavior, 23(2), 139-145.
  10. Borkovec, T. D., & Roemer, L. (1995). Perceived functions of worry among generalized anxiety disorder subjects:
  11. distraction from more emotionally distressing topics?. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 26, 25-30.
  12. Calkins, S. D., & Leerkes, E. M. (2004). Early attachment processes and the development of emotional self-regulation. Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications, 324-339.
  13. Davis, M. H. (1983). Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44(1), 113-126. https://doi:10.1037/0022-3514.44.1.113
  14. Donegan, N. H., Sanislow, C. A., Blumberg, H. P., Fulbright, et. al. (2003). Amygdala hyperreactivity in borderline personality disorder: Implications for emotional dysregulation. Biological Psychiatry, 54(11), 1284-1293.
  15. Eifert, G. H., & Forsyth, J. P. (2007). From normal anxiety to anxiety disorders: An experiential avoidance perspective. Understanding behavior disorders: A contemporary behavioral perspective, 81–116.
  16. Eisenberg, N., & Eggum, N. D. (2009). Empathic responding: Sympathy and personal distress. In J. Decety & W. Ickes (Eds.), The social neuroscience of empathy, pp. 71-830. MIT Press.
  17. Fitzsimons, G. M., & Bargh, J. A. (2004). Automatic self-regulation. Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications, 151-170.
  18. Gambin, M., Sharp, C., (2018). Relations between empathy and anxiety dimensions in inpatient adolescents. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 31(4), 447-458.
  19. Gorwood, P. (2022). Neurobiological mechanism of anhedonia. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience.
  20. Gross, J. J. (1998). Antecedent-and response-focused emotion regulation: Divergent consequences for experience, expression, and physiology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(1), 224-237.
  21. Gross, J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: an integrative review. Review of General Psychology, 2(3), 271-299.
  22. Gross, J. J. (Ed.). (2007). Handbook of emotion regulation. Guilford Press.
  23. Gross, J. J. (2008). Emotion regulation. Handbook of emotions, 3(3), 497-513.
  24. Gross, J. J. (2014). Emotion regulation: Conceptual and empirical foundations. Handbook of emotion regulation, 3-20. The Guilford Press.
  25. Gross, J. J., & Jazaieri, H. (2014). Emotion, emotion regulation, and psychopathology: An affective science perspective. Clinical Psychological Science, 2, 387-401. https://doi:10.1177/2167702614536164
  26. Gross, J. J., & John, O. P. (1997). Revealing feelings: Facets of emotional expressivity in selfreports, peer ratings, and behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 435–448.
  27. Gross, J. J., & John, O. P. (2003). Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. Journal of personality and social psychology, 85(2), 348-362.
  28. Gross, J. J., & Levenson, R. W. (1993). Emotional suppression: Physiology, self-report, and expressive behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 970-986.
  29. Gross, J. J., & Levenson, R. W. (1997). Hiding feelings: the acute effects of inhibiting negative and positive emotion. Journal of abnormal psychology, 106(1), 95.
  30. Gross, J. J., & Thompson, R. A. (2007). Emotion regulation: Conceptual foundations. In J. J. Gross (Ed.), Handbook of emotion regulation, pp. 3-24. Guilford Press.
  31. Hall, J. A., & Schwartz, R. (2018). Empathy present and future. The Journal of Social Psychology, 1-19.
  32. Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Rapson, R. L. (1994). Emotional contagion. Cambridge university press.
  33. IBM Corp. Released 2016. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 24.0. Armonk, NY: IBM Corp.
  34. Joiner, T. E. (2005). Why people die by suicide. Harvard University Press.
  35. Joormann, J., & Stanton, C. H. (2016). Examining emotion regulation in depression: A review and future directions. Behaviour research and therapy, 86, 35-49.
  36. Joorman, J., & Vanderlind, W. M. (2014). Emotion regulation in depression the role of biased cognition and reduced cognitive control. Clinical Psychological Science 2(4), 402-421. https://doi:10.1177/2167702614536163
  37. Knight, L. K., Stoica, T.., Fogleman, N. D., & Depue, B. E. (2019). Convergent neural correlates of empathy and anxiety during socioemotional processing. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 94.
  38. Koole, S. L., Van Dillen, L. F., & Sheppes, G. (2011). The self-regulation of emotion. Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications, 2, 22-40.
  39. LaBar, K. S., & Phelps, E. A. (2005). Reinstatement of conditioned fear in humans is context dependent and impaired in amnesia. Behavioral neuroscience, 119(3), 677-686.
  40. Lang, P. J., Bradley, M. M., & Cuthbert, B. N. (1998). Emotion, motivation and anxiety. Brain mechanism and psychophysiology. Biological Psychiatry, 44, 1248-1263.
  41. Larsen, R. J., & Prizmic, Z. (2004). Affect regulation. Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications, 40-61.
  42. Lovibond, S. H. & Lovibond, P. F. (1995). Manual for the Depression Anxiety & Stress Scales. (2nd Ed.). Psychology Foundation.
  43. Mahrer, A. R. (1997). Empathy as therapist-client alignment. In A. C. Bohart & L. S. Greenberg (Eds.), Empathy reconsidered: New directions in psychoterapy, 187-216. DC: American Psychological Association.
  44. McRae, K., Ciesielski, B., & Gross, J. J. (2012). Unpacking cognitive reappraisal: Goals, tactics, and outcomes. Emotion, 12(2), 250–255. https://doi:10.1037/a0026351
  45. Mennin, D. S. (2004). Emotion regulation treatment for generalized anxiety disorder. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 11, 17-29.
  46. Mennin, D. S., Holaway, R. M., Fresco, D. M., Moore, M. T., & Heimberg, R. G. (2007). Delineating components of emotion and its dysregulation in anxiety and mood psychopathology. Behavior Therapy, 38(3), 284-302.
  47. Michalak, J., Troje, N. F., Fischer, J., Vollmar, P., Heidenreich, T., & Schulte, D. (2009). Embodiment of sadness and depression—gait patterns associated with dysphoric mood. Psychosomatic medicine, 71(5), 580-587. https://doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181a2515c
  48. Nesse, R. M. (2000). Is depression an adaptation?. Archives of general psychiatry, 57(1), 14-20. https://doi:10.1001/archpsyc.57.1.14
  49. O’Connor, L. E., Berry, J. W., Weiss, J., & Gilbert, P. (2002). Guilt, fear, submission, and empathy in depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 71(1-3), 19-27.
  50. O’Connor, L. E., Berry, J. W., Lewis, T., Mulherin, K. & Crisostomo, P., S. (2007). Empathy and depression: the moral system on overdrive. Empathy in mental illness, 49, 75.
  51. Orth, U., Berking, M., & Burkhardt, S. (2006). Self-conscious emotions and depression: Rumination explains why shame but not guilt is maladaptive. Personality and social bulletin, 32(12), 1608-1619. https://doi:10.1177/0146167206292958
  52. Panksepp, J. (1991). Affective neuroscience: A conceptual framework for the neurobiological study of emotions. In K. T. Strongman (Ed.). International review of emotion (1) , 59–99.
  53. Powell, P. A. (2018). Individual differences in emotion regulation moderate the associations between empathy and affective distress. Motivation and Emotion, 42(4), 602–613.
  54. Prochazkova, E., & Kret, M. E. (2017). Connecting minds and sharing emotions through mimicry: A neurocognitive model of emotional contagion. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 80, 99-114.
  55. Rizvi, S. J., Pizzagalli, D. A., Sproule, B. A., & Kennedy, S. H. (2016). Assesing anhedonia in depression: Potentials and potfalls. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 65, 21-35.
  56. Rodebaugh, T. L., & Heimberg, R. G. (2008). Emotion Regulation and the Anxiety Disorders: Adopting a Self-Regulation Perspective. Emotion Regulation, 140-159. https://10.1007/978-0-387-29986-0_9
  57. Rogers, C. R. (1980). A way of being. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  58. Rottenberg, J., Gross, J. J., Gotlib, I. H. (2005). Emotion context insensivity in major depressive disorder. Journal of abnormal psychology, 114(4), 627-639.
  59. Rueda, P., Fernández-Berrocal, P., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2014). Dissociation between cognitive and affective empathy in youth with Asperger Syndrome. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 12(1), 85-98. https://doi:10.1080/17405629.2014.950221
  60. Rusch, S., Westermann, S., & Lincoln, T. M. (2012). Specificity of emotion regulation deficits in social anxiety: An internet study. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 85(3), 268-277.
  61. Sacher, J., Neumann, J., Fünfstück, T., Soliman, A., Villringer, A., & Schroeter, M. L (2012). Mapping the depressed brain: a meta-analysis of structural and functional alterations in major depressive disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 140, 142-148.
  62. Shamay-Tsoory, S. G. (2011). The neural bases for empathy. Neuroscientist 17, 18-24. https://doi:10.1177/1073858410379268
  63. Silbersweig, D., Clarkin, J. F., Goldstein, M., Kernberg, O. F., Tuescher, O., Levy, K. N., ... & Stern, E. (2007). Failure of frontolimbic inhibitory function in the context of negative emotion in borderline personality disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 164(12), 1832-1841.
  64. Spoor, J. R., & Kelly, J. R. (2004). The evolutionary significance of affect in groups: Communication and group bonding. Group processes & intergroup relations, 7(4), 398-412. https://doi:10.1177/1368430204046145
  65. Spreng, R. N., McKinnon, M. C., Mar, R. A., & Levine, B. (2009). The toronto empathy questionnaire: Scale development and initial validation of a factor-analytic solution to multiple empathy measures. Journal of Personality Assessment, 91, 62-71.
  66. Tal Saban, M., & Kirby, A. (2019). Empahy, social relationship and co-occurence in young adults with DCD. Human Movement Science, 63, 62-72.https://doi:10.1016/j.humov.2018.11.005
  67. The jamovi project (2023). jamovi (Version 2.3) [Computer Software]. Retrieved from
  68. Tolman, E. C. (1932). Purposive behavior in animals and men. Century/Random House.
  69. Tone, E. B., & Tully, E. C. (2014). Empathy as a “risky strength”: A multilevel examination of empathy and risk for internalizing disorders. Developmental and Psychopathology, 26(4pt2), 1547-1565. https://doi:10.1017/S0954579414001199
  70. Turk, C. L., Heimberg, R. G., Luterek, J. A., Mennin, D. S., & Fresco, D. M. (2005). Emotion dysregulation in generalized anxiety disorder: A comparison with social anxiety disorder. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 29, 89-106.
  71. Vishkin, A., Hasson, Y., Millgram, Y., & Tamir, M. (2019). One size does not fit all: Tailoring cognitive reappraisal to different emotions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 46(3), 469-484. https://doi:10.1177/0146167219861432
  72. Vosh, K. D., & Baumeister, R. F. (2004). Understanding self-regulation. Handbook of self-regulation research theory and applications, 1-9.
  73. WHO. (2022). World Mental Health Report: Transforming Mental Health for All. World Health Organization: Geneva, Switzerland.
  74. Yan, Z., Zeng, X., Su, J., & Zhang, X. (2021). The dark side of empathy: Meta-analysis evidence of the relationship between empathy and depression. PsyCh Journal, 10(5), 794-804
  75. Zahn-Waxler, C., & Van Hulle, C. (2011). Empathy, guilt, and depression. Pathological altruism, 321-344.
  76. Zhang, S. X., Sun, S., Jahanshasi, A. A., Alvarez-Risco, A., Ibarra, V. G., Li, J. et al. (2020). Developing and testing a measure of COVID-19 organizational support of healthcare workers-results from Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Psychiatry research, 291, 113174.

How to Cite

Gemănaș, A., & Chiracu, A. . (2023). Emotional self-regulation in depression and anxiety. The moderating role of empathy. Studia Doctoralia, 14(2), 106–115.