Moments of meaning – Towards an assessment of protective and risk factors for existential vulnerability among young women with mental ill-health concerns : A mixed methods project in clinical psychology of religion and existential health

Sammanfattning: The present sequential mixed-methods project was conducted in the area of clinical psychology of religion and existential health. The central aim of the project was to investigate clinically relevant areas for an assessment of protective and risk factors for existential vulnerability and dysfunctional existential meaning-making in a clinical sample of young women with mental ill-health concerns. Three theoretical areas were applied and operationalized for the project: Existential meaning-making; Ontological security; and, Emotion regulation. The sample was composed of female participants at an outpatient psychodynamic psychotherapy clinic for young adults in Sweden, with depression as the most common preliminary diagnosis. Study I, quantitative, comprised an online questionnaire of established assessment-measures, completed by 53 women (17–30 y., M = 22.4 y.). Depression-related personality traits were explored as possible underlying variables when studying relations between mental ill-health and a dysfunctional existential meaning-making process, by comparing groups pertaining to different levels of depression-related personality traits to explore possible differences between groups in the areas studied. Study II, qualitative, comprised an in-depth interview, with a subgroup (n = 10; range 21-25 y, M=22.7) drawn from the preceding study, and representative of those high on depression-related scales. Interrelations between existential meaning-making and emotion regulation were explored in relation to everyday life, critical life-events, and ultimate concerns through a systematic text condensation process. Study III, multi-method, comprised several assessment steps of data from the subgroup, and an assessment of inter-rater reliability (IRR). Possible functional factors (protective) and dysfunctional factors (risk) for mental ill-health were explored through an assessment of Existential worldview function, by the exploration of interrelations among existential worldview, ontological security and self-concept. According to our hypothesis, high scores on the depression-related personality scale Inhibition of aggression were strongly associated with a less functional existential meaning-making process in this sample of young clinical females. Among the High scorers, a crisis of meaning was found in terms of weak or no access to sufficient cultural knowledge or existential resources in intergenerational, emotionally-nurturing relationships. Results further indicated a general lack of an operating existential worldview accompanied by little or no reflection on existential worldview matters among a majority of the subjects and their parents.