NEGATIVE APPRAISALS AND COGNITIVE AVOIDANCE OF INTRUSIVE MEMORIES IN DEPRESSION: A REPLICATION AND EXTENSION


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Abstract

Recent research has demonstrated that intrusive negative autobiographical memories represent a shared phenomenological feature of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. A preliminary investigation (Starr and Moulds, 2006) successfully applied a cognitive appraisal model of PTSD to the maintenance of intrusive memories in depression. The current investigation sought to replicate and extend these findings. Two hundred and fifty first-year undergraduate students were interviewed to assess for the presence of a negative autobiographical memory that had spontaneously intruded in the past week. Participants completed self-report inventories assessing trait and situational employment of cognitive avoidance mechanisms in response to these memories. Consistent with Starr and Moulds, intrusion-related distress correlated with dysphoria, irrespective of intrusion frequency. Assigning negative appraisals to one's intrusive memory and attempts to control the memory were positively associated with intrusion-related distress, level of depression, and cognitive avoidance mechanisms. Additionally, negative appraisals and control influenced the employment rumination as an avoidant response to a greater degree than the corresponding trait tendency. Finally, negative appraisals and the use of cognitive mechanisms were predictive of depression concurrently. The results support the validity of borrowing from PTSD models to elucidate the cognitive mechanisms that maintain intrusive memories in depressed samples.

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