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Major depressive disorder and mood variability

Are those suffering from clinical depression stuck in emotional stagnation? Well, not always. But what exactly influences their mood dynamics? That is the question an international research team, including Prof. Roman Cieślak and Dr. Anna Rogala from SWPS University’s Streslab: Stress Research Center, set out to answer. The research project was led by Prof. Heleen Riper of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

#depression #mood dynamics #mobile apps as research tools #mood instability #technology in science

What we researched:

  • Using smartphone-based applications, we monitored the mood dynamics of people with major depressive disorder (MMD). Although MDD is characterized by a pervasive negative mood, research indicates that the mood of depressed patients is rarely entirely stagnant. It is often dynamic, distinguished by highs and lows, and highly responsive to external and internal regulatory processes.

How we did it:

  • Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data were collected as part of the cross-European E-COMPARED trial, in which approximately half of the patients were randomly assigned to receive the blended Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (bCBT). Patients were prompted to rate their current mood (on a 1-10 scale) using a smartphone-based EMA application. Latent profile analyses were subsequently applied to identify distinct profiles based on average mood, mood variability, and emotional inertia across the monitoring period.

Why is it important:

  • Because the study provides some preliminary indications of different patterns of both average mood and mood variability among MDD patients in treatment in mental health settings. Overall, four profiles were identified and labeled: (1) "very negative and least variable mood" (n = 14) (2) "negative and moderate variable mood" (n = 204), (3) "positive and moderate variable mood" (n = 41), and (4) "negative and highest variable mood" (n = 28). The degree of emotional inertia was virtually identical across the profiles.