Recovery from depression: Factors impacting non-treatment related improvements in depressive symptomatology
Kelly, Morgen A R
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Spontaneous remission is a well-documented phenomenon in unipolar depression. Despite our awareness of this phenomenon, very little research has investigated the factors that may be at work in promoting non-treatment related recovery from depression. The present study investigated a number of psychosocial factors potentially related to spontaneous remission. Unipolar depressed undergraduates completed weekly measures of depressotypic cognitions and use of social comparison over a 9-week period. In addition, life events were assessed in an interview at the final study appointment. We hypothesized that improvements in cognitive style, life events, and social comparison would temporally precede precipitous improvements and weekly changes in depressive symptoms. Results indicated that twenty percent of the sample experienced a spontaneous remission during the course of the observation period. Less frequent use of social comparison was significantly associated with sudden, precipitous improvements in depressive symptoms. Higher self-esteem in a given week predicted decreases in depressive severity in the following week. Further, weekly and trait cognitive style, specifically levels of hope, self-efficacy to control mood and dysfunctional attitudes, moderated the relationship between weekly social comparison and change in depressive symptoms. The present study represents a novel approach to examining spontaneous remission from depression and suggests factors associated with the maintenance of and recovery from depression.