Talking therapies can help to change depressive personality traits, research finds.
Although personality is sometimes thought of as fixed, psychotherapy can actually change it.
Around 13% of the population have depressive personality traits — but they do not have to be permanent.
People with depressive personality traits often feel down and worried and are frequently dissatisfied with life.
They are also likely to be negative and brooding, as well as having low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness.
Dr Rachel Maddux, who completed the research for her doctoral thesis, said:
“The interesting thing was that therapy not only improved the depression itself, it also ameliorated the pervasive depressive traits.”
The conclusions come from a study of 159 people with chronic depression, 44% of whom had depressive personality traits.
The results showed that people with and without depressive personality traits responded to psychotherapy in a similar way.
After treatment, only 11% could still be classified as having a depressive personality disorder.
Both cognitive-behavioural therapy and psychodynamic therapy were effective.
Indeed, people with depressive personality traits actually responded better to the treatment than others.
They had less severe symptoms and greater improvements in depression.
Dr Maddux writes:
“…individuals with DPD [Depressive Personality Disorder] experience significant psychological distress, but they appear to respond as well or better than individuals without DPD to various types of treatment.
Thus, DPD should not be viewed as an impediment to successful outcomes.
Further, DPD itself appears to resolve for many individuals over the course of treatment…”
Dr Maddux said:
“…now I know that there is hope for those with depressive personality.
The next step will be to study other factors that could affect the outcome of treatment; biology, childhood and development, trauma, etc.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The thesis was published on the Lund University website (Maddux, 2012).