Overgeneral autobiographical memory predicts diagnostic status in depression.
Hermans D., Vandromme H., Debeer E., Raes F., Demyttenaere K., Brunfaut E., Williams JM.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterised by difficulties in retrieving specific autobiographical memories, with a significant propensity towards categoric memories (i.e. memories of a summary type). Previous studies have demonstrated that this overgeneral memory is a valid predictor of the course of depression, with reduced specificity being associated with worse outcome. Most of these studies have employed continuous measures of depression to assess the course of the symptoms. This study investigated whether overgeneral memory also predicts clinical status at follow-up (i.e. whether patients still meet criteria for depression). Patients who fulfilled criteria for major depressive disorder were tested shortly after admission to the hospital and were retested some weeks later. It was found that lower levels of specificity or a higher number of categoric memories were associated with a higher probability of still being diagnosed with MDD. These memory variables outperformed other relevant indices, such as depression severity, rumination, level of self-esteem and dysfunctional attitudes.