Psychological Explanations of Depression

Overview of psychological explanations that could be included in a depression essay with A02/3.

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  • Psychological Explanations of Depression
    • Psychodynamic - Freud
      • Mourning and Melancholia: When we lose a loved one (bereavement, withdrawal of affection) we enter a state of mourning. After a while some return to normal but for some this mourning state continues. Gradually we seperate ourselves from the loved one but a feeling of self-blame continues.
        • Depressed individuals report that there parents are/were 'affectionless' - supporting Freud's theory
          • Men who lost their fathers in childhood were more likely to suffer from depression
          • Children who lost their parents were more likely to suffer from depression - but this could be accounted for by loss of affection rather than the loss itself.
        • Psychodynamic therapies not as effective in treating depression at it requires communication that a depressed individual may not be able to give.
        • Loss cannot account for all cases of depression - It accounts for roughly 10%
      • Freud stated that we unconsciously harbour negative feelings towards our loved ones and that when we lose them we resent them. Over time, when we seperate ourselves from them, this resentment is turned in on ourselves causing the depression
    • Learned Helplessness - Seligman
      • When some individuals try but fail to control a negative event they then feel that they cannot exert control on any aspect of their life. This affects their ability in situations that they can control.
        • These individuals have a depressive attributional style where they attribute all negative outcomes to personal, stable and global character faults.
          • College students exposed to uncontrollable aversive events were more likely to fail a cognitive task - stresses the importance of control and helplessness on performance.
          • Most of Seligman's research was conducted on animals - we cant' always generalise animal studies to humans due to the complexity of the human brain.
    • Melancholia is a pathological illness
      • Mourning is a natural process
    • Beck's Theory of Depression
      • Cognitive Theory: Depressed individuals form a negative schema in childhood that is then applied to all new situations. This negative schema combined with cognitive biases maintain what Beck called the negative triad: a negative view of oneself, the world and the future.
        • Cognitive therapies are effective and show improvements in 80% of cases. They are more effective than drug treatments and have lower relapse rates.
        • Depressed women performed worse on cognitive/logic tasks when compared to a control group - supporting the role of cognition in depression.
        • Depressed individuals exposed to negative automatic-thought statements became more depressed. Although we still do not know whether negative thinking is a cause of consequence of depression.
          • Unethical to expose depressed individuals to statements that make them more depressed - does not protect them from psychological harm.
    • Hopelessness - Abramson
      • Modification of the Helplessness model. Pessimistic outlook and predict and expect bad rather than good outcomes in important areas of their life.
        • Those with a higher negative attributional style showed more signs of depressive symptons.
        • Negative attributional style may be more common in women as they usually think more negatively of themselves.
          • Women suffer from depression more than men. This may be due to negative attributional style but also social roles. Life experiences such as pregnancy and child-rearing may contribute to womens' risk of depression.
            • Men cope differently - antisocial behaviour or alcohol abuse
    • Social Factors
      • Having poor social networks is characteristic of depression.
        • IS this a cause of effect of depression?
        • Poor/low social skills in primary schoolchildren is a predictor of the onset of depression


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