Background Major depressive disorder is an emotional disorder. It is important to improve our understanding of the role of affect in relapse/recurrence of depression. Therefore, this study examines whether affect plays a role in prospectively predicting depressive symptomatology and if there are indications for emotional scarring as a consequence of undergoing depressive episodes. Methods In 107 patients remitted from recurrent depression affect was examined in predicting depressive symptomatology as measured with the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology – Self Report. Affect was measured with the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule and with a one item Visual Analogue Mood Scale. Indication of emotional scarring was examined by comparing number of previous depressive episodes to levels of affect. Results Less positive affect as assessed after remission predicted increased depressive symptomatology six months later, even after we controlled for baseline symptomatology. Negative affect also predicted depressive symptomatology six months later, but not after controlling for baseline depressive symptomatology. No relationship was found between affect and number of previous episodes. Limitations All participants in this study had two or more previous depressive episodes and received CBT during the acute phase of their depression. The instruments that measured mood and affect were administered within 4 weeks of each other. Conclusions Positive affect and negative affect as assessed after remission in recurrent depression can predict depressive symptomatology. Especially positive affect seems to play an independent role in predicting depressive symptomatology. Directly targeting positive affect in relapse prevention during remission might be a way to enhance treatment effects.
- Depressive symptomatology