Depression: Psychological explanations

  • Created by: ava.scott
  • Created on: 09-05-15 21:15

Cognitive: Triad

  • Depression is the result of faulty or maladaptive schema
  • There are three aspects; the self, the future, the world.
  • Negative thoughts concerning each of these aspects leads to depression.
  • Secondary symptoms of depression can be explained by this triad-- e.g. losing interest in things because they think they will not feel better by doing them.
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Cognitive: silent assumptions

  • Inner life of depressed people is dominated by these silent assumptions.
  • These ultimately come from those around us, but may be inferred incorrectly.
  • examples:
  • 'I must get people's approval'.
  • I must do things perfectly or not at all'
  • Depressed people will follow these to greater extent than most.
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Cognitive: Information processing

  • Depressed people are prone to distorting and misinterpretating information from around the world.
  • Over negative and self-defeating interpretations lead to low mood and passivity.
  • e.g.
    • Catastrophising-- exagegrating minor setbacks
    • Personalising- taking repsonsibility and blame
    • Overgeneralisation- sweeping conclusions from one incident
    • black and white thinking-- success v failure
    • selective thinking-- forgetting successes and remebering failures
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cognitive research: evans

Evans et al

  • assessed negative or dysfunctional self beliefs in pregnant women.
  • those who scored highest for negative beliefs were 60% more likely to suffer depression than those with lowest scores.
  • could even predict onset of depression 3 years later

This supports the theory because its hows how thought processes can be a predictor of depression for a long time. Negative thought processes make you more susceptible to depression.

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cognitive research: Lewinsohn

Lewisohn et al

  • measured negative attitudes (i should be happy all the time) in adolescents who were not depressed at the time.
  • A year later, of those who had suffered a negative life event, only those who had negative thinking suffered depression.

This supports the theory because it seems to show how negative thinking is key to the onset of depression and predisposing some individuals to the condition, and not others.

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Research evaluation

Cause and effect established!!!

  • because the negative thinking was identified before onset of depressive symptoms
  • this makes the theory compelling,as many argue that negative thinking is a side-effect of depression, not a causal factor.

2005 and 2001- relatively recent= temporal validity

DIDNT CONTROL- for biological factor, or psychodynamic factors

  • it could be that serotonin levels predicts the negative thinking.
  • Or that loss during childhood makes you a negative thinker.
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wider evaluation


  • what causes negative thinking?
    • the explanation only says that depression can be caused by negative thinking, but not how this thinking comes around. This reduces the practical applications as the cause could be environmental or biological.
  • ignore biological
    • Lots of research and evdience to justify biology's role in depression, but the cognitive model does not acknowledge this. This makes it a narrower explanation and therefore is less compelling.
  • Ignore social factors
    • the individual is blamed for their depression as it is the result of their thought processes. This isnt a progressive stance, as the individual already has low self-confidence.
    • someone may have had horrible things happen to them!

Practical applications

  • CBT has been very effective in treating depression, and is a result of this theory. This makes the theory more useful to us, and therefore more compelling and successful.
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Psychodynamic approach AO1


  • depression is the result of loss during childhood
  • anger towards the person lost is turned inwards leading to self-hatred
  • loss could be a death, or just a lack of affection (perceived loss)


  • Inconsistent, cold or angry parenting creates a hostile and unpredictable world for the child.
  • Childs feelings (confusion, helplessness) turn to anger
  • anger is suppressed by parents
  • Child tries to be perfect to gain love, but feels they are inadequate.
  • leading to neurosis manifesting as anxiety and/or depression.

Highly critical SUPEREGO causes introjective depression- (feeling like a failure as not meeting perceived standards)

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Psychodynamic evidence: Kendler and Bifulco

Kendler et al

  • Adult female twins who had suffered loss or separation were more likely to suffer depression.
  • THIS SHOWS ANACLITIC DEPRESSION--- constant grieving over loss or feared loss of a caregiving relationship.

This supports the theory because it shows how a loss of a relationship leads to a increase sucsceptibility to depression. Anger at the loss may be turned inwards, causing self-hate and depression.

Bifulco et al 

  • 250 women who had lost mothers before age 17.
  • Women were twice as likely to suffer depression or anxiety disorders.
  • The rate of depression was even higher if lost before the age of 6.

This supports the theory as childhood lost created a higher risk of developing depression as an  adult. This may be do to unconcious conflicts concerning the feeling of too inadequate for love, and constantly craving care.

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Psychodynamic research: Green

Green et al

  • 25 depressed people v 22 control
  • scanned brain activity when listening to statements when the 'blame' should land on them or their friend e.g. 'patient acted stingily towards best friend' or vice versa.
  • They were then asked what emotion they associated with the statement.
  • Depressed people did not link brain areas for guilt and expected behaviour as strongly as the control.
  • This may be because depressed patients will behave as they are responsible/guilty for everything, so do not use the link between the two as much.

This supports the theory of introjective depression, as the patient is not meeting their own standards and feels they are failing, leading to depression.

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Psychodynamic research: B BW W


  • Found that fewer than 10% of people who lose a parent develop depression.
  • Also, not all people with depression suffered a loss- so there must be other causes.

Beck and Ward

  • found no evidence of repressed anger and hostility in dreams, as suggested by Freud.


  • Found that depressed people to express anger and hostility towards others, not just themselves.

These studies challenge some key aspects of the theory; the loss being key in development of depression, the suppression of anger as a child, and the inwards reflection of hate.

This reduces the predictive validity of the theory.

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Psychodynamic research evaluation


  • lead to development of psychotherapies which have helped some people.
  • more positive view of depression-- 1800's talking cure was the first treatment.
  • Explains origins of depression, logically (unlike cognitive)


  • Very unscientific-
    • lack empirical evidence. all research can be reinterpreted.
    • no control for biological or cognitive explanations e.g. depressed mothers may be less affectionate/more likely to leave.
  • difficult to investigate ethically
    • can't cause a loss in a childs life
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Wider evaluation


  • Says that all children who lose a caregiver, or are not cared for as a child, will result in anaclitic depression and unconcious conflicts. 
  • This isnt the case as many people lose parents and are not depressed.

Ignores the biological approach

Looks at childhood- leading to better child welfare?

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maybe we have depression at the moment? i just cant decide which diagnosis manual to use tho cos they dont realy have concurrent validity, might just go on self diagnosis... i eat more and the best time of the day is the night so i can sleep.... yep knew it, depression

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