Background: Little is known as to whether or not the seven personality dimensions of Cloninger's theory, particularly the three character dimensions newly included in the theory, are independent of the states of depression.
Methods: One hundred and eight patients with major depression filled out the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) before and after a 16-week antidepressant treatment.
Results: The level of depression, as assessed by the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, was correlated positively to the harm avoidance score and negatively to the self-directedness and cooperativeness scores. During the treatment, the scores on these three dimensions significantly changed toward normal values in treatment-responders, but were stable in treatment-nonresponders. The changes in these dimensions were significantly explained by the change in the depression severity during treatment. Scores on novelty seeking, reward dependence, persistence, and self-transcendence were not correlated significantly to the level of depression and did not change significantly during the treatment in either treatment-responders or nonresponders.
Limitations: The changes in the TCI scores during treatment in this study may reflect a non-specific tendency for the scores to change on retest.
Conclusions: The results suggest that a depressive state can significantly affect assessments of harm avoidance, self-directedness, and cooperativeness in major depression. The administration of the TCI during a depressive episode may elevate the HA score, and may lower the SD and C scores. These findings highlight the importance of considering the state of depression before drawing conclusions about the TCI personality traits, when a patient with major depression is still experiencing a depressive episode.