Background. The Interacting Cognitive Subsystems analysis of cognitive vulnerability to depression predicts that subjective experiences of dysphoria in recovered depressed patients will be qualitatively different from those of controls. This study tested this prediction using a new instrument, the Depressed States Checklist.
Methods. Twenty-three recovered recurrently depressed patients and 54 never depressed controls rated the affective and self-devaluative components of a dysphoric experience.
Results. Groups reported similar levels of affective component but recovered depressed patients reported higher self-devaluative dysphoric experience. At zero affective component of dysphoria neither group reported any self-devaluative feelings. With increasing affective component of dysphoria, the self-devaluative component increased significantly more in recovered patients than in controls. The ratio of self-devaluative to affective components of dysphoria significantly differentiated recovered depressed patients from controls.
Conclusions. As predicted, dysphoria in recovered depressed patients is qualitatively different from controls in ways that increase vulnerability to major depression. The Depressed States Checklist is a new, brief, measure of cognitive vulnerability to depression that may be particularly useful in large, prospective, epidemiological studies.