Differentiating early-onset chronic depression from episodic depression in terms of cognitive-behavioral and emotional avoidance

Timo Brockmeyer, Dominika Kulessa, Martin Hautzinger, Hinrich Bents, Matthias Backenstrass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Although chronic depression is associated with lower global functioning and poorer treatment response than episodic depression, little is known about the differences between these two forms of depression in terms of psychological factors. Thus, the present study aimed at differentiating chronic and episodic depression regarding cognitive-behavioral and emotional avoidance that have been proposed as important risk factors for depression and promising targets for the treatment of depression.

METHODS: Thirty patients with early onset chronic depression were compared with 30 patients with episodic depression and 30 healthy, never-depressed controls in terms of self-reported cognitive-behavioral (social and non-social) and emotional avoidance.

RESULTS: Chronically depressed patients reported more avoidance than healthy controls in each of the measures. Moreover, they reported more cognitive-nonsocial and behavioral-nonsocial as well as behavioral-social and emotional avoidance (in the form of restricted emotional expression to others) than patients with episodic depression. This kind of emotional avoidance also separated best between chronically and episodically depressed patients. Furthermore, general emotion avoidance and behavioral-social avoidance were positively correlated with levels of depression in chronically depressed patients.

LIMITATIONS: The results are based on self-report data and should thus be interpreted with caution. Additionally, the cross-sectional design limits any causal conclusions.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings underscore the relevance of cognitive-behavioral and emotional avoidance in differentiating chronic from episodic depression and healthy controls and advocate a stronger focus on maladaptive avoidance processes in the treatment of chronic depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-23
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date24 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Avoidance Learning
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cognition
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult


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