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Ostracism (social exclusion) has been found to be a remarkable stress factor to mentally ill people with difficulties in situations of social interaction. In an earlier study it was found that patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) showed differences in oxytocin dysregulation by having lower oxytocin plasma levels during a social exclusion paradigm (Jobst et al., 2013, submitted). To our knowledge, this is the first study investigating neuroendocrinological changes of social exclusion in chronically depressed patients. Chronic depression (CD) is associated with poor social functioning and behavioral interpersonal problems which are considered to be based on the non-responsiveness of CD patients to environmental consequences.
To manipulate a situation of social exclusion we used the Cyberball Paradigm, a virtual ball tossing game which has been well validated and applied in numerous previous studies on the effects of social exclusion. 19 CD patients (according to DSM-IV) and 19 healthy controls matched for gender, age and education underwent repeated neuroendocrine measurements in a standardized laboratory setting during the Cyberball Paradigm. Assessments of psychological variables as well as measurements of oxytocin plasma levels were performed at baseline, 5 min, 15 min and 40 min after Cyberball.
As an association of interpersonal problems in BPD with oxytocin dysregulation has been found, we suggest differences in changes of oxytocin levels in a social exclusion situation in CD patients versus healthy subjects. The data will be presented and discussed in relation to specific interpersonal problems of patients suffering from CD.
Chronically depressed patients show considerably impaired interpersonal features, which could be explained by a reduced Theory of Mind (ToM) ability.
The aim of this study was to examine whether chronically depressed patients are impaired in their ToM performance compared to a healthy control group in three different components of ToM: the social cognitive and social perceptual component as well as the ability to take someone else's visual perspective.
32 chronically depressed patients (DSM-IV) were compared to 32 matched healthy controls. ToM abilities were assessed by a cartoon picture story test (CT), the ‘Perspective task’ (PT) and the ‘Reading the mind in the Eyes’ test (RMET). In addition, information about depression severity, childhood trauma and executive functioning (working and logical memory) was assessed for both groups.
Patients mentalized significantly less frequently than healthy controls in the CT (Mann-Whitney-U=340,50, p<0,05). Furthermore, the CT was significantly correlated with the RMET (patients: r=0,46, p<0,05; controls: r=0,57, p<0,01). We didn’t find any significant difference between both groups in the RMET (p>0,05). In the PT, patients showed significantly lower scores than controls (t(35,68)=2,10, p<0,05). There wasn’t any significant correlation between the three ToM tests and severity of depression, duration of illness or childhood trauma (p>0,05).
Our results suggest that chronically depressed patients show deficits in their social cognitive ToM ability compared to controls, whereas their social perceptual ToM ability seems to be unimpaired. As to the capacity to take someone else's perspective, our results suggest that chronically depressed patients present significant deficits.
Patients with chronic depression (CD) by definition respond less well to standard forms of psychotherapy and are more likely to be high utilizers of psychiatric resources. Therefore, the aim of this guidance paper is to provide a comprehensive overview of current psychotherapy for CD. The evidence of efficacy is critically reviewed and recommendations for clinical applications and research are given.
We performed a systematic literature search to identify studies on psychotherapy in CD, evaluated the retrieved documents and developed evidence tables and recommendations through a consensus process among experts and stakeholders.
We developed 5 recommendations which may help providers to select psychotherapeutic treatment options for this patient group. The EPA considers both psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy to be effective in CD and recommends both approaches. The best effect is achieved by combined treatment with psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, which should therefore be the treatment of choice. The EPA recommends psychotherapy with an interpersonal focus (e.g. the Cognitive Behavioural Analysis System of Psychotherapy [CBASP]) for the treatment of CD and a personalized approach based on the patient's preferences.
The DSM-5 nomenclature of persistent depressive disorder (PDD), which includes CD subtypes, has been an important step towards a more differentiated treatment and understanding of these complex affective disorders. Apart from dysthymia, ICD-10 still does not provide a separate entity for a chronic course of depression. The differences between patients with acute episodic depression and those with CD need to be considered in the planning of treatment. Specific psychotherapeutic treatment options are recommended for patients with CD.
Patients with chronic forms of depression should be offered tailored psychotherapeutic treatments that address their specific needs and deficits. Combination treatment with psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy is the first-line treatment recommended for CD. More research is needed to develop more effective treatments for CD, especially in the longer term, and to identify which patients benefit from which treatment algorithm.
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