The moderating effect of psychological flexibility on the link between learned helplessness and depression symptomatology: A preliminary study

Inês A. Trindade, Ana Laura Mendes, Nuno B. Ferreira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: In accordance to ACT theory, psychological inflexibility may influence the well-known link between learned helplessness and depression symptomatology. This exploratory preliminary study aims to analyse whether psychological flexibility moderates the relationship between these variables. Methods: A community sample of 84 Portuguese participants (30 men and 54 women), with a mean age of 33.98 (SD = 11.05), completed the LHS, CompACT, and DASS-21. The moderating effect of psychological flexibility on the relationship between learned helplessness and depression symptomatology was calculated using the PROCESS computation macro. Results: The interaction term between learned helplessness and psychological flexibility was significant (b = −0.01, SE = 0.00, p < 0.001), pointing out psychological flexibility as a moderator of the association between learned helplessness and depression symptoms. The total model explained 55% of the variance of depression symptomatology. For the same level of learned helplessness, participants who reported higher psychological flexibility, presented less depression symptomatology. The buffer effect of psychological flexibility is stronger when learned helplessness is higher. Discussion: Higher psychological flexibility seems to be protective for depression symptomatology, in particular for those individuals who experience higher levels of learned helplessness. Individuals who are most likely to struggle with learned helplessness are potentially those who could benefit the most of an intervention targeting psychological flexibility as a way to ameliorate depressive symptomatology. Future studies with larger and clinical samples are required to confirm these preliminary findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-72
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Contextual Behavioral Science
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020



  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Depression
  • Learned helplessness
  • Moderation analysis
  • Psychological flexibility

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