Maladaptive blame-related action tendencies are associated with vulnerability to major depressive disorder

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Biases towards self-blaming emotions, such as self-contempt/disgust, were previously associated with vulnera- bility to major depressive disorder (MDD). Self-blaming emotions are thought to prompt specific action ten- dencies (e.g. “feeling like hiding”), which are likely to be more important for psychosocial functioning than the emotions themselves. Systematic investigations, however, of these action tendencies in MDD are lacking. Here, we investigated the role of blame-related action tendencies for MDD vulnerability and their relationship with blame-related emotions. 76 participants with medication-free remitted MDD and 44 healthy control (HC) par- ticipants without a history of MDD completed the value-related moral sentiment task, which measured their blame-related emotions during hypothetical social interactions and a novel task to assess their blame-related action tendencies (feeling like hiding, apologising, creating a distance from oneself, attacking oneself, creating a distance from other, attacking other, no action). As predicted, the MDD group showed a maladaptive profile of action tendencies: a higher proneness to feeling like hiding and creating a distance from themselves compared with the HC group. In contrast, feeling like apologising was less common in the MDD than the HC group. Apologising for one’s wrongdoing was associated with all self-blaming emotions including shame, guilt, self- contempt/disgust and self-indignation. Hiding was associated with both shame and guilt. Our study shows that MDD vulnerability was associated with specific maladaptive action tendencies which were independent of the type of emotion, thus unveiling novel cognitive markers and neurocognitive treatment targets.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2021


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