The impact of attachment distress on affect-centered mentalization: An experimental study in psychosomatic patients and healthy adults

Anna S. Herrmann, Manfred E. Beutel, Katharina Gerzymisch, Richard D. Lane, Janine Pastore-Molitor, Jörg Wiltink, Rüdiger Zwerenz, Mita Banerjee, Claudia Subic-Wrana

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Abstract

Introduction We investigated the impact of attachment distress on affect-centered mentalization in a clinical and a non-clinical sample, comparing mentalization in a baseline condition to mentalization under a condition of attachment distress. Methods The sample consisted of 127 adults who underwent inpatient psychosomatic treatment, and 34 mentally healthy adults. Affect-centered mentalization was assessed by analyzing participants’ narratives on interpersonal situations in a baseline condition with the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS), and an experimental condition inducing attachment distress with the Adult Attachment Projective Picture System (AAP). Unlike the LEAS, the AAP is specifically designed to trigger attachment distress. In both conditions, the narratives were evaluated using the LEAS scoring system. Additionally, we assessed the impact of childhood trauma on affect-centered mentalization with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). Results While the non-clinical sample displayed the same level of affect-centered mentalization in both conditions, the majority of the clinical sample reached higher scores in the attachment distress condition. There was no strong relationship between reported trauma and mentalization scores. Discussion Our findings lend strong empirical support to the assumption that affect-centered mentalization is modulated by attachment-related distress. Several possible explanations for the differences between and within the clinical and the non-clinical sample are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0195430
JournalPloS one
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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    Herrmann, A. S., Beutel, M. E., Gerzymisch, K., Lane, R. D., Pastore-Molitor, J., Wiltink, J., Zwerenz, R., Banerjee, M., & Subic-Wrana, C. (2018). The impact of attachment distress on affect-centered mentalization: An experimental study in psychosomatic patients and healthy adults. PloS one, 13(4), [e0195430]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0195430