Emotional Intensity of Idiographic Sad Memories in Depression Predicts Symptom Levels 1 Year Later

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depression, autobiographical memories, emotion, disclosure, emotional intensity, idiographic sad memories, later symptom levels, cue-word paradigm

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When cued with generic happy and sad words, depressed individuals have been found to articulate contextually impoverished memories of autobiographical events. Although this pattern predicts a worse symptomatic course of disorder in some depressed samples, longitudinal findings with the cue-word paradigm are inconsistent. To address the etiological significance of autobiographical memories outside the cue-word paradigm, the authors used an idiographic interview in which depressed participants generated memories of their happiest and saddest lifetime events. Each memory was coded for detail and emotional intensity. At a 1-year follow-up, participants' levels of depressive symptoms were reassessed. Lower emotional intensity of saddest memories predicted higher levels of depressive symptoms at follow-up. Several implications for understanding sadness and emotional disclosure in depression are discussed.

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Emotion, v. 5, issue 2, p. 238-242