Minor and major depression in the general population: does dysfunctional thinking play a role?
Background: Although most research suggests that minor depression is part of a depression continuum, conflicting results have also been found. Moreover, little is known about dysfunctional thinking in minor depression and how this varies along the continuum. Especially, research on the form of dysfunctional thinking (ie, extreme responding) is lacking. We have addressed these issues by reporting results from a large community sample. Methods: Demographic, clinical, and cognitive factors (ie, content and form of dysfunctional thinking) were compared between minor depression (ie, 2-4 symptoms), major depression with 5 to 6 symptoms, and major depression with 7 to 9 symptoms. A large community sample (N = 1129) was used. Differences between the 3 subgroups were examined as well as linear relations between number of symptoms and factors marking the severity. Results: Most demographic variables did not distinguish the 3 depression status categories from each other. Clinical and cognitive factors acted in synchrony with the depression continuum. Conclusions: Minor depression should be considered as part of continuum together with major depression. Not only the content but also the form of dysfunctional thinking seems to play a major role in depression. Extreme positive responding is more prominent in mild depression, whereas more severely depressed individuals have a general tendency toward extreme negative responding. This finding, if replicated, may have important implications for the cognitive theory of depression.