Background: The role of rejection sensitivity (RS; the tendency to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and overreact to implied or overt interpersonal rejection) in psychopathology has mainly been studied with regard to borderline personality disorder (BPD). In the present study, we first sought to extend previous evidence of heightened RS in a clinical group with psychiatric disorders other than BPD, when compared with a community sample. Then, we tested whether emotion dysregulation and mindfulness were associated with RS in both sample, further hypothesizing that emotion dysregulation would mediate the relation between mindfulness deficits and RS. Subjects and methods: We adopted a cross-sectional design involving 191 psychiatric patients and 277 community participants (total N=468). All participants completed the Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire, the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, and the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale. Results: Our hypotheses were supported, with psychiatric patients reporting greater levels of rejection sensitivity and emotion dysregulation, and lower level of mindfulness. Mindfulness deficits and emotion dysregulation explained a significant amount of variance in RS, in both samples. Finally, bootstrap analyses revealed that mindfulness deficits played an indirect effect on RS through the mediating role of emotion dysregulation. In particular, two different patterns emerged. Among psychiatric patients, an impairment in the ability to assume a non-judgmental stance towards own thoughts and feelings was related to RS through the mediation of limited access to emotion regulation strategies. Conversely, in the community sample, overall emotion dysregulation mediated the effect of lack of attention and awareness for present activities and experience on RS. Conclusions: Longitudinal studies could help in delineating etiological models of RS, and the joint role of deficits in mindfulness and emotion regulation should inform treatment programs.
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