Depression diagnoses, but not individual differences in depression symptoms, are associated with reduced autobiographical memory specificity

Francesca R. Farina, Tom J. Barry, Ilse van Damme, Thijs van Hie, Filip Raes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Objectives: Difficulties recalling specific events from one's autobiographical past have been associated with a range of emotional disorders. We present the first examination of whether diagnoses of depression or individual differences in depression severity explain the most variance in autobiographical memory specificity. We also examine the contribution of other key cognitive factors associated with reduced memory specificity – rumination and verbal fluency – to these effects. Methods: Participants with (n = 21) and without (n = 25) major depressive disorder completed self-report measures of depression severity (Beck Depression Inventory version II; BDI-II) and ruminative tendency (Ruminative Response Scale), a measure of verbal fluency, and the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT) to assess memory specificity. Results: People diagnosed with depression recalled significantly fewer specific memories in the AMT relative to healthy controls. In a linear regression, diagnostic status explained a significant amount of unique variance in specificity whereas BDI-II scores did not. Diagnostic group differences in verbal fluency also explained a significant amount of variance in specificity. Conclusions: Our findings extend our understanding of the mechanisms involved in reduced memory specificity but future research must explore the causal contribution of weak executive functioning to reduced memory specificity. Practitioners points: Diagnoses of depression were associated with problems recalling specific events from one's past. Problems with memory specificity amongst depressed people were associated with executive functioning difficulties. Problems with specificity were not associated with individual differences in depression severity or ruminative tendencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-186
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
Volume58
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by a KU Leuven Research Council Grant PF/10/005.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The British Psychological Society

Keywords

  • cognition
  • depression
  • diagnosis
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology

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