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To enhance formulation and interventions for emotional distress symptoms, research should aim to identify factors that contribute to distress and disorder. One way to formulate emotional distress symptoms is to view them as state manifestations of underlying personality traits. However, the metacognitive model suggests that emotional distress is maintained by metacognitive strategies directed by underlying metacognitive beliefs. The aim of the present study was therefore to evaluate the role of these factors as predictors of anxiety and depression symptoms in a cross-sectional sample of 4936 participants collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Personality traits (especially neuroticism) were linked to anxiety and depression, but metacognitive beliefs and strategies accounted for additional variance. Among the predictors, metacognitive strategies accounted for the most variance in symptoms. Furthermore, we evaluated two statistical models based on personality traits versus metacognitions and found that the latter provided the best fit. Thus, these findings indicate that emotional distress symptoms are maintained by metacognitive strategies that are better accounted for by metacognitions compared with personality traits. Theoretical and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


J Nerv Ment Dis

Publication Date





943 - 950


Humans, Cross-Sectional Studies, Pandemics, COVID-19, Metacognition, Anxiety, Psychological Distress, Personality