Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An Initial Evaluation of a Model of Depression Sensitivity
by Alden, Alison Rose, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2013, 163; 3595547
Abstract (Summary)

Based on Anxiety Sensitivity (AS) research, researchers have suggested a model of how beliefs about normal experiences sometimes associated with depression, such as sleep disturbances and difficulty concentrating, may precipitate increases in depression. Cox and colleagues have proposed the existence of a trait, which they refer to as Depression Sensitivity (DS), that leads individuals to catastrophically interpret such experiences as evidence of impending or irreversible depression (Cox, Borger, & Enns, 1999; Cox, Enns, & Taylor, 2001; Cox, Enns, Freeman, & Walker, 2001). They suggest that this trait may be a depressive scar and that its effects on future depression may be mediated by rumination. The present research sought to provide an initial, albeit incomplete, test of the tenants of this model, and extend pilot research validating the first measure of DS, the Depression Sensitivity Index (DSI).

Using a sample of Northwestern undergraduates, this research examined the relationship between DS and various facets of AS. Results provided additional evidence for the convergent and discriminant validity of the DSI, indicating that, as predicted by theory, DS is more highly correlated with AS Mental-Incapacitation Concerns than with any other AS facet. Further, confirmatory factor analyses suggested that a hierarchical model consisting of a general factor underlying all items and four group factors representing AS Mental-Incapacitation Concerns, Physical Concerns, Social Concerns, and DS provided a good fit to the AS and DS data.

The current research also evaluated whether, in line with the theoretical model of the development of DS, past episodes of depression predict DS above and beyond current mood. Results suggested that, not only was having experienced a major depressive episode predictive of DS, but that participant estimates of the number of depressive episodes that they had experienced exhibited a linear relationship with this variable. Although the existence of a relationship between past episodes and DS is insufficient to conclude that DS is a depressive scar (Cox, Enns, Freeman, et al., 2001), it is a necessary precondition for retaining the scar hypothesis.

Additionally, the present research replicated pilot findings that DS prospectively predicts depressive symptoms, predicting symptoms three months later above and beyond baseline symptoms. Further analyses indicated that DS also had incremental predictive power above and beyond both the facets of neuroticism and the facets of AS in predicting depressive symptoms three months later in a two-wave longitudinal model. Likewise, DS was predictive of depressive symptoms over the course of three months in a seven-wave longitudinal model of DS and symptoms. However, when modeled in this manner, it appeared that variance common to DS and AS Mental-Incapacitation Concerns accounted for changes in symptoms from one month to the next (e.g., over the course of every three study timepoints). Although these results are insufficient to determine if DS causes increases in depression, establishing the temporal precedence of this trait is an important first step in evaluating its causal status.

Finally, the present research evaluated whether, as proposed by the Depression Sensitivity Model, rumination partially or fully accounts for the relationship between DS and future depressive symptoms. Unfortunately, latent rumination as measured in this study did not prospectively predict depressive symptoms in the direction expected, and therefore could not account for the relationship between DS and symptoms. The meaning and implications of these results are discussed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Zinbarg, Richard E.
Commitee: Chiao, Joan, Nusslock, Robin, Revelle, William
School: Northwestern University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-B 75/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Psychology, Clinical psychology, Personality psychology
Keywords: Anxiety sensitivity, Depression, Depression sensitivity, Major depressive disorder
Publication Number: 3595547
ISBN: 9781303413803
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