Thwarted Needs and Psychological Inflexibility Predicting Psychological Distress in University Students
Self-determination theory proposes that thwarted autonomy, competence, and relatedness are associated with an inflexible style of coping and leads to mental health concerns. The present research aims to examine psychological inflexibility (PI) – a construct of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – as a mediator in the relationship between the thwarted needs and psychological distress in college students. Self-report instruments in a cross-sectional design were utilized to collect data from a sample of Turkish college students (N= 223, Mage= 21.68; SDage = 4.31) during the lock-down in Turkey. The present research utilized structural equation modelling (SEM) in testing the mediating role of PI in the relationship between thwarted needs and psychological distress (anxiety and depression symptoms). Thwarted autonomy, competence and relatedness had medium correlation with psychological distress. The SEM results showed that PI mediated the relationship of thwarted competence and relatedness with psychological distress while PI did not mediate the relationship between thwarted autonomy and distress. PI can be used to mitigate the negative influences of thwarted needs on psychological distress. Potential cultural differences in the relationship of thwarted needs with psychological distress were discussed.