Chapter

Socioemotional Functioning in Depression

University of Edinburgh, and Royal Edinburgh Hospital
DOI: 10.1002/9780470696385.ch4 In book: Mood Disorders: A Handbook of Science and Practice, pp.61 - 77
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    ABSTRACT: Cardiac vagal control, as measured by indices of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), has been investigated as a marker of impaired self-regulation in mental disorders, including depression. Past work in depressed samples has focused on deficits in resting RSA levels, with mixed results. This study tested the hypothesis that depression involves abnormal RSA fluctuation. RSA was measured in depressed and healthy control participants during rest and during two reactivity tasks, each followed by a recovery period. Relative to controls, depressed persons exhibited lower resting RSA levels as well as less RSA fluctuation, primarily evidenced by a lack of task-related vagal suppression. Group differences in RSA fluctuation were not accounted for by differences in physical health or respiration, whereas group differences in resting RSA level did not survive covariate analyses. Depression may involve multiple deficits in cardiac vagal control.
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    ABSTRACT: Difficulty with effective emotion regulation is a central feature of major depressive disorder (MDD). Correlational evidence suggests that people with MDD experience elevated levels of irritability and anger, although few studies have experimentally tested this idea. The current study examined emotional reactivity across self-report (anger ratings), behavioral (task persistence), and physiological (heart rate, skin conductance) domains in response to a standardized, frustrating task in young adults with MDD (n = 74) and without MDD (n = 107). A secondary goal was to determine whether regulating emotional response with reappraisal, acceptance, or no instruction mitigated emotional reactivity across these domains. People with MDD responded with greater self-reported anger, lower galvanic skin conductance, and less task persistence (i.e., lower distress tolerance) than non-MDD individuals. Emotion regulation strategy did not differentially attenuate emotional responses between MDD groups. Instructions to accept emotions increased anger for all participants compared to reappraisal and no strategy instructions. Results confirm that enhanced anger reactivity and poor distress tolerance are present in MDD compared to healthy controls. However, additional work is needed to further develop and implement strategies that help people with MDD manage their emotional reactivity and enhance distress tolerance.
    Cognitive Therapy and Research 06/2012; 37(3). · 1.70 Impact Factor

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