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Front Psychol. 2017 Feb 17;8:214. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00214. eCollection 2017.

Improving Major Depressive Episode Assessment: A New Tool Developed by Formal Psychological Assessment.

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Department of General Psychology, University of Padua Padova, Italy.


Aim: Major depressive episode (MDE) can manifest with different features. Discriminating between different types of MDEs is crucial for proper treatment. The aim of this study is to propose a new tool for MDE assessment in bipolar disorder (BD) or major depressive disorder (MDD) to overcome some limitations of current rating scales. The proposed tool investigates all of the clinical features of different MDEs and gives qualitative information, differentiating patients with the same score but different symptoms and psychopathology severity. To achieve this purpose authors used a new methodology called Formal Psychological Assessment (FPA). FPA allows creating relations between the items of an assessment tool, and the set of diagnostic criteria of a given clinical disorder. In the application at hand, given the capability to analyze all clinical features, FPA appears a useful way to highlight and differentiate between inhibited and agitated depressive symptoms. Method: The new tool contains 41 items constructed through 23 clinical criteria from the DSM-5 and literature symptoms. In line with FPA, starting from a set of items and a set of clinical criteria, a Boolean matrix was built assigning to each item its own set of clinical criteria. The participants include 265 in the control group and 38 patients with MDE (diagnosed with MDD or BD) who answered the QuEDS. After 1 month, 63 participants performed the test again and 113 took the Depression-Anxiety-Stress Scale to analyze convergent-divergent validity. Results: The scale showed adequate reliability and validity. A hierarchical confirmatory factor analysis highlighted the presence of three sub factors (affective, somatic, and cognitive) and one high-order factor (depression). Conclusions: The new tool is potentially able to inform clinicians about the patients' most likely diagnostic configuration. Indeed, the clinical state of a patient consists of the subset of items he/she answered affirmatively, along with his/her subset of specific symptoms. Qualitative information is fundamental from a clinical perspective, allowing for the analysis and treatment of each patient according to his/her symptoms in an effective way.


formal psychological assessment; major depressive episode; psychopathology; quantitative-qualitative evaluation; questionnaire; symptomatology

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