The relationship between self-compassion and chronic depression: a cross-sectional clinical study

José Eduardo da Silva, Sónia Catarina Simões


Background: At present, depression is the world’s most common psychopathology. Self-compassion is a psychological concept that has shown promise regarding its impact on psychopathology. Despite a vast literature studying the relationship between depression and self-compassion, few studies about this association were done in clinical samples.

Goals: This study sought to analyze the associations between self-compassion, its dimensions and symptomatology of depression, during and after a therapeutic intervention.

Methods: A non-probabilistic sampling method was used. All participants had been diagnosed with persistent depression disorder (dysthymia) and were treated in a residential therapeutic community for a period of six to eight months. The original sample was divided into two groups: during (In-Treatment) and after treatment (one-year Post-Treatment). The assessment protocol was composed of Beck Depression Inventory (BDI II), Self-Compassion Scale (SELFCS) and sociodemographic characterization.

Results: The sample was composed of 63 participants, 28 females and 35 males (age: M = 32.84, SD = 10.24). Women presented lower levels of self-kindness and self-compassion (total score), and higher levels of all the negative dimensions of SELFCS. Patients with moderate or severe symptoms of depression indicated a lower total score of self-compassion as well as higher scores in all the negative dimensions; patients having undergone previous treatments showed higher levels of symptomatology of depression. The group assessed after the intervention presented higher levels of self-compassion and lower levels of over-identification, when compared to the group that was assessed still undergoing treatment. Finally, the self-judgment dimension of the SELFCS stands out as a predictor of depression for the total sample and the SELFCS’s isolation dimension is a predictor of BDI’s scores for the group undergoing treatment.

Discussion: Although most of the results are in line with similar findings of the existing literature about the relationship between the studied variables, some were unexpected, and may guide the direction of future studies and the application of these concepts within the clinical context.


Chronic Depression, Dysthymic disorder, Self-Compassion, Self-Judgment

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