Emotions in Depression: What Do We Really Know?

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Major depressive disorder is among the most common and costly of all mental health conditions, and in the last 20 years, emotional dysfunction has been increasingly seen as central to depression. Accordingly, research on emotions in depression has proceeded with fury. The urgency of the work has tempted investigators to issue premature declarations and to sometimes overlook theoretical and methodological challenges entailed in studying emotion. I report on what we have learned thus far about how depression influences emotional reactivity and emotion regulation, and also carefully demarcate the vast terrain of what we do not yet know. Ironically, an attitude of humility may enable the field to achieve the ambitious but elusive goal of developing a rich, contextually specific account of depression-related changes in emotional reactivity and regulation. Such an account is a precondition for using knowledge about emotion to intervene more effectively to reduce depression's worldwide burden.

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Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, v. 13, p. 241-263