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June 2022

Fragile states of mind: Neuroticism, vulnerability and the long-term outcome of depression

Author(s): Wainwright, N. W. J.

Journal/Book: Br J Psychiatry. 1996; 169: British Journal of Psychiatry, 17 Belgrave Square, London, England SW1X 8PG. Royal College of Psychiatrists. 338-347.

Abstract: Background. This paper considers the extent to which vulnerability to the outcome of major affective disorder is conferred through personality deviance. Results are based upon a 12 year longitudinal follow-up study of 80 patients with a primary depressive disorder, originally selected from a consecutive series seeking care at a hospital in Scotland. Methods. The study included detailed clinical course assessments in association with the formal application of diagnostic criteria. Assessments on recovery from the index episode included measures of self-confidence and of neuroticism. Experience of selected severe loss events over the study period was also determined. Results. Limited self-confidence was strongly related, unlike neuroticism, to the subsequent first recurrence of affective disorder. Relationships between psychosocial, clinical and demographic factors and long-term outcome revealed psychosocial factors, in particular neuroticism and a lack of self-confidence, to have the greatest prognostic significance. Conclusions. These results reveal the heightened risk over the long-term of a poor outcome for depressive disorder consequent upon measures of personality deviance and of exposure to adversity. While giving only limited support to narrowly defined psychosocial models of depression, they clarify the risk gradients involved and through this may provide a firmer basis than hitherto for relapse prevention.

Note: Article PG Surtees, Univ Forvie Site, Inst Publ Hlth, MRC Biostat Unit, Robinson Way, Cambridge CB2 2SR, England


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