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Depression (Unipolar Disorder)

PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS
Psychodynamic Explanations

 Mourning & Melancholia


Freud(1917) – when a loved one is lost, there is a mourning
period and after life returns to normal.

For some, the mourning period never seems to end. They


continue in a state of permanent ‘melancholia’
(depression).
Mourning & Melancholia are very much the same, both a
reaction to the loss of a loved one.

Mourning is a natural process.


Melancholia is a pathological (mental) illness.
Psychodynamic Explanations

 Pathology of Depression
Freud believed we unconsciously have some negative
feelings towards those we love.
When we lose them, those negative feelings turn on
ourselves. This period, is followed by mourning as we
recall the person and begin to separate ourselves from
them.
In some, this period goes astray and we continue to self-
abuse and self-blame; anger continues to be directed
inwards.

Depression: ‘anger turned against oneself’


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 Many people who have suffered from depression


describe their parents as ‘affectionless’ (Shah & Waller,
2000) – supports Freud’s concept of loss through
withdrawal of affection. Men who has lost their fathers
during childhood scored higher on a depression scale
than those whose fathers had not died (Barnes &
Prosen, 1985).
Bifulco et al. (1992) – children’s mothers who died in
childhood are more likely to experience depression in
later life. However this link may be explained by the lack
of care from parents and parent substitutes.

 Loss probably explains only a small % of depression


cases. (Only 10% of those who experienced early loss
later become depressed – Paykel & Cooper, 1992).
Weakness of the psychodynamic approach - therapy
Cognitive Explanations

 Beck’s (1967) Theory of Depression


Depressed people feel depressed because their thinking is
subjective/biased towards negative explanations of the
world.

They have obtained a negative schema (mental structure


that represents some aspect of the world) during
childhood. This may be cause by parental/peer rejection,
teacher criticism and parents depressive attitudes.
These negative schemas are activated whenever they
encounter a new situation mirroring original conditions in
which schemas were learnt.
Negative schemas are also subject to certain cognitive
biases in thinking.
Negative schemas and cognitive biases maintain what Beck
calls the Negative Triad, a negative view of one self,
world (not coping with demands of environment) and
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 Beck’s theory is supported by research.


Hammen & Krantz (1976) – depressed women made more
errors in logic than non-depressed ppt. when asked to
understand written material.
Depressed ppt. who were given negative automatic
thought-like statements/material became more and more
depressed. (Bates et al. 1999)
However...
The existence of a link between negative thoughts and
depression does not mean that the negative thoughts
have actually caused depression.
Cognitive Explanations

 Learned Helplessness (Seligman, 1974)


Depression may be learned when individuals try but fail to
control unpleasant experiences. Resulting in a loss of
control over their life, and becoming depressed =
learned helplessness.

Seligman discovered depressed people thought about


unpleasant events in more negative ways than non-
depressed people.
Reformulated Helplessness Theory (Abramson et al. 1978) –
depressed person thinks the cause of such unpleasant
events is internal, stable and global.
Depressed people show a depressive attributional style (an
individual's explanation of why events happen) – they
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 Seligman’s theory was based on research with dogs.


Animal responses may not reflect human experiences.
Attributions are part of the learned helplessness theory, and
it is difficult to see how this could explain non-human
animal behaviour (as they can’t male attributions)
However... Theory is been demonstrated in human studies.
Hiroto & Seligman, 1974 – students exposed to
uncontrollable harsh events were likely to fail on
cognitive tasks.
Miller & Seligman, 1974 – depressed students given similar
task later performed the worst. So, having some control
and not feeling completely helpless improves
performance. Supports the theory.
Wu et al. 1999 – found in rats, uncontrollable negative
events led to lower serotonin/norepinephrine levels,
providing a link with the biological explanations of
Cognitive Explanations

 Hopelessness
Abramson et al. (1989) changed the helplessness theory
into the hopelessness theory.

Theory explains depression on the basis of negative


expectations of the future.
Hopeless person expects bad things to happen and does
not expect good things to happen and does not believe
they have the capability to change that situation =
depression.
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 Kwon & Laurenceau (2002) – ppt. with a higher negative


attributional style (an individual's explanation of why
events happen) showed more symptoms associated with
depression when stressed (evidence to support)

 A negative attributional style may be more common in


women who throughout their social development are
taught to think negatively about themselves (Notman &
Nadelson, 1995). This may explain why many women
suffer from depression than men.
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 Cognitive Explanation
Cognitive explanations are associated with successful
therapies for depression.

Butler & Beck (2000) – reviewed 14 meta-analyses.


Investigating effectiveness of Beck’s cognitive theory.
Concluded about 80% of adults benefited from the
therapy.
The therapy more successful than drug therapy and had a
lower relapse rate, supporting the proposition that
depression has a cognitive basis.