FACULTY OF PSYCHOLOGY AND EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES
The Relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Mental Disorders
Research on emotional intelligence has intensified over the last decades, and according to common definitions it is seen as the ability to recognize, understand, express, manage and regulate emotions (J. D. Mayer & P. Salovey, 1997). Emotional intelligence helps to determine whether a person becomes a leader, controls their own and other’s emotions or achieves success.
In Georgia research on this topic is relatively new, and has been undertaken by Assistant Professor Dr. Khatuna Martskvishvili, who is studying how emotional intelligence relates to mental disorders, in order to establish possible new trends for rehabilitation.
The researcher has conducted three studies – 1) Living in a different world: emotion-related self-perceptions in mental disorders; 2) The relationship between emotional intelligence and mood disorders; and 3) Does emotional intelligence predict personality disorder symptomatology? All three projects are part of a larger project: The Relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Mental Disorders.
Dr. Martskvishvili received a research grant from Open Society Georgia Foundation for the project (OSI Global Faculty Grants Program - Research Track) and between January and June 2013 she worked at the University College of London (UCL) as a visiting researcher, at the London Psychometric Laboratory with Dr. K.V. Petrides, author of the theory on which the present research is based.
“I also worked with Prof. Petrides on the research on emotional intelligence. Neither the field work for the research, nor components were financed by OSI.” She obtained another research grant to work at the London Psychometric Laboratory using data initially collected in Georgia and continued the study. The researcher’s interest in the issue of emotional intelligence stems from the fact that the level of emotional intelligence is not detected by traditional intelligence tests. The Intelligence Quotient or IQ helps predict academic success, however a high level of emotional intelligence is more important for success in everyday life than a high IQ.
For her PhD research, Dr. Martskvishvili conducted studies on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among internally displaced persons shortly after the August 2008 war. The results showed that persons with high emotional intelligence had lower levels of PTSD. Most studies are based on data from research conducted on “a norm”, for example data collected about students, etc. Researchers study the characteristics of leadership and success, and in some cases they try to develop these characteristics through training. Martskvishvili is less optimistic about the possibility of developing emotional intelligence. The theory on which she bases her research implies that emotional intelligence is a personality trait. Although certain skills can be taught, it is impossible to attain them completely or to acquire new ones.
Despite this, in the case of mental disorders, research on emotional intelligence may provide important information for the assessment of the emotional functioning of an individual and offer new possibilities for therapeutic interventions. Interest for the issues of emotional intelligence is gradually increasing both from researchers and from mental health specialists, because a construct offers the opportunity to better conceptualize the emotional disturbances of clinical disorders. Historically, it was believed that emotions hamper the cognitive processing of information, but today it is known that, to the contrary, the adequate management of emotions permits an individual to solve everyday problems and to have a sense of psychological well-being. The intellectual use of emotions plays an essential role in an individual’s psychological adaptation.
Using the concept of emotional intelligence for understanding the nature of mental disorders seems to be intuitive, because emotional disorders represent a fundamental aspect for most mental disorders. For example: anhedonia and a diminished capacity to express emotions are typical in schizophrenia; emotional aptitude and mood changeability are pertinent for bipolar syndrome; an inclination towards negative emotions and emotional dysregulation appear in cases of depression; problems identifying and describing emotions are typical of alexithymia, while groundless fears are characteristic of generalized anxiety disorders.
The goal of the research was to study the relationship between emotional intelligence and mental disorders. Since various dimensions of emotional intelligence are closely connected to symptoms of mental disorders, research was seen to offer important information on mental disorders. Dr. Martskvishvili and her students, who wrote their BA theses on this topic, carried out the research and data collection. Seventy in-patients with mental disorders participated in the research with diagnoses including schizophrenia spectrum disorders, affective disorders, generalized anxiety disorders, and others. Although the heads of the two participating clinics were reluctant at first, we were able to work together fruitfully, and we thank both these Directors and the patients who agreed to work with us.
A theoretical model of this research is represented by a trait emotional intelligence model, thus the Georgian version of the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (G-TEIQue) was used to study emotional intelligence. This is a Georgian version of the British questionnaire, adapted by Khatuna Martskvishvili several years ago under the guidance of the author of the theory and instrument (Tthe Georgian TEIQue is available on the website of the London Psychometric Laboratory http://psychometriclab.com/Default.aspx?Content=Page&id=13).
During this study, the emotional intelligence of patients with mental disorders was compared with the emotional intelligence of individuals of the same age and gender without disorders. Results showed that patients with mental disorders had lower scores than individuals without disorders on most trait emotional intelligence facets. This offers interesting directions for understanding and research on mental disorders. The results suggest practical applications in clinical psychology and psychiatry.
The perspective of regulating emotions when treating patients might present a component of emotional intelligence that will give an individual a greater sense of comfort within an emotional experience, making them more capable of using emotional information to resolve problems and express their emotions according to the context. Strategies for the therapeutic treatment of mental disorders and training in skills related to emotional intelligence will lead us to better treatment for mental disorders. Results of this ongoing research were presented at the Conference of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences, in Barcelona, July, 2013 and the 4th International Congress on Emotional Intelligence in New York on September 8-10, 2013.