Self-discrepancy theory as a transdiagnostic framework: A meta-analysis of self-discrepancy and psychopathology.

Self-discrepancy theory (SDT) is a model of the relations between the self and affect which has been applied to the study of different types of psychopathology including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Although the theory itself is compatible with a transdiagnostic perspective on psychopathology, to date no systematic review of the literature has examined that possibility. We conducted a meta-analysis that synthesized the literature on self-discrepancy and psychopathology across a heterogeneous range of 70 studies. Results showed a small-to-medium association between self-discrepancy and psychopathology that was highly robust and similar in magnitude across domains. Furthermore, self-discrepancy was related to higher levels of a range of negative emotions and lower levels of a range of positive emotions. Meta-regression models showed that the effects were greater for actual:ideal discrepancy compared with actual:ought discrepancy for both depression and anxiety, which was contrary to the tenets of SDT which suggests specific associations between actual:ideal discrepancy and depression and actual:ought discrepancy and anxiety. Measurement type (i.e., idiographic vs. nomothetic) was a significant predictor of the effects for depression and anxiety, such that nomothetic measures evidenced greater associations compared with idiographic measures. Our findings could suggest that self-discrepancy represents a contributory factor related to a number of psychiatric disorders. However, the tenet of SDT suggesting unique associations between actual:ideal and actual:ought discrepancy and anxiety and depression respectively was not supported. Implications are discussed for future research on self-discrepancy and psychopathology including the study of mechanistic frameworks. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)