New Psychology Model Links Emotions to Mental Health

Psychologists often turn to a variety of methods to analyze how people express and manage their emotions. Now in a new study, researchers at the City College of New York (CCNY) have developed a novel assessment model, called the Mentalized Affectivity Scale (MAS), which allows clinicians to approach mental health disorders in a new way.

The new assessment model breaks emotion regulation into three basic elements:

  • identifying: the ability to identify emotions and to reflect on the factors that influence them (e.g. childhood or other traumatic events);
  • processing: the ability to modulate and distinguish complex emotions;
  • expressing: the tendency to express emotions outwardly or inwardly.

For the study, Drs. Elliot Jurist and David M. Greenberg from the City College of New York administered the MAS to nearly 3,000 adults online. Statistical modeling of the findings revealed the following: processing emotions delineates from identifying them and expressing emotions delineates from processing them.

The team of psychologists discovered that emotion regulation was related to personality and well-being in surprising and unexpected ways. They also found that the ability to process and modulate emotions was a significant predictor of well-being beyond personality and demographic information.

“We have introduced a way for psychologists and psychiatrists to use emotion regulation to supplement diagnoses,” said Greenberg, a postdoctoral  student at Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership and lead author of the study.

One of the most important findings was how the three elements — identifying emotions, processing emotions and expressing emotions — were linked to the participants’ previous clinical diagnoses involving anxiety, mood, eating, and neurodevelopmental disorders.

“For the first time we have empirical evidence for the validity and usefulness of the theory that can be carried out into the mainstream by neuroscientists, emotion researchers and psychiatrists,” said Jurist, senior author and director of the Mentalized Affectivity Lab at CCNY and professor at the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership.

The new model can be applied to many psychological conditions, such as anxiety, mood, and developmental disorders. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately one in five adults in the U.S. — 43.8 million, or 18.5 percent — experiences mental illness in a given year.  About 18.1 percent of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.

The new findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Source: The City College of New York