A comparison of vulnerability factors in patients with persistent and remitting lifetime symptom course of depression.
Barnhofer T., Brennan K., Crane C., Duggan D., Williams JM.
BACKGROUND: Research has suggested fundamental differences between patients with persistent and those with remitting courses of depression. This study investigated whether patients with different lifetime symptom course configurations differ in early risk and cognitive vulnerability factors. METHODS: Patients with at least three previous episodes who were currently in remission were categorized based on visual timelines of their lifetime symptom course and compared with regard to a number of different indicators of vulnerability including questionnaire measures of childhood trauma and experiential avoidance. RESULTS: Of the N=127 patients, n=47 showed a persistent course of the disorder with unstable remissions and symptoms most of the time, and n=59 showed a course with more stable, lasting remissions. Group comparisons indicated that patients with a more persistent course were significantly more likely to have suffered from childhood emotional abuse, and reported higher levels of experiential avoidance as well as related core beliefs. Experiential avoidance partially mediated the effect of childhood emotional abuse on persistence of symptoms. LIMITATIONS: The study is cross-sectional and does not allow conclusions with regard to whether differentiating variables are causally related to chronicity. Self-report measures may be subject to reporting biases. CONCLUSIONS: The results highlight the detrimental effects of childhood adversity and suggest that experiential avoidance may play an important role in mediating such effects.