Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Jonathan Rottenberg, Ph.D.

Keywords

Depression severity, Major depressive disorder, Minor depressive disorder, Emotional responding, Experience sampling

Abstract

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a debilitating disorder characterized by significant mood disturbance. In laboratory studies, MDD has been characterized by both blunted positive (PER) and negative emotional reactivity (NER). However, mood disordered persons' emotional reactivity has rarely been studied in naturalistic settings, and it is unknown how less severe forms of depression relate to emotional reactivity. To address these issues, the current study utilized two naturalistic sampling methods (the Day Reconstruction Method and the Experience Sampling Method) to examine PER and NER to daily life events in 35 individuals currently experiencing a major depressive episode (MDD), 26 individuals currently experiencing a minor depressive episode (mD), and 38 healthy controls. Both methods demonstrated that individuals with major and minor depression exhibited blunted PER relative to controls. In surprising contrast to previous laboratory findings, both individuals with MDD and mD showed increased NER relative to controls. Correlational analyses with severity measures indicated that depression and anxiety severity were positively related to NER and negatively related to PER. Findings suggest that NER in mood disorders may diverge as a function of assessment context and may be heightened in naturalistic environments. Despite the fact that mD is a milder mood disorder, findings suggest that mD results in similar emotional impairments as found in MDD.

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