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Behav Res Ther. 2012 May;50(5):280-6. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2012.01.008. Epub 2012 Feb 21.

Cognitive reactivity, dysfunctional attitudes, and depressive relapse and recurrence in cognitive therapy responders.

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Department of Psychiatry, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, TX 75390-9149, USA.


Dysfunctional attitudes can foreshadow depressive relapse/recurrence. Priming mood, through induction paradigms, is hypothesized to activate dysfunctional attitudes. Cognitive reactivity (CR) refers to mood-linked increases in dysfunctional attitudes after priming. Here we explored the extent to which CR as well as residual, unprimed, dysfunctional attitudes predicted depressive relapse/recurrence among depressed patients who responded to acute phase cognitive therapy (CT). Consenting adults, aged 18-70, with recurrent major depressive disorder (n = 523) participated in a two-site randomized controlled trial examining the durability of continuation phase treatments. Patients received 16-20 sessions of CT. Among the 245 incompletely remitted responders, 213 agreed to undergo a mood induction paradigm. After 8 months of continuation phase treatments, participants were followed an additional 24 months. Although the mood induction significantly lowered mood in 80% of responders, the expected CR was not evident. By contrast, higher unprimed dysfunctional attitudes following CT did predict relapse/recurrence over 20 and 32 months post-randomization. The findings of this large longitudinal study of incompletely remitted CT responders challenge the notion that it is necessary to prime mood in order to maximize dysfunctional attitudes' prediction of relapse and/or recurrence. While findings cannot be generalized beyond CT responders, they emphasize the clinical importance of reducing dysfunctional attitudes in preventing depression.

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