Thought suppression and cognitive vulnerability to depression

Br J Clin Psychol. 2005 Mar;44(Pt 1):1-14. doi: 10.1348/014466504x19442.


Objectives: Cognitive reactivity (CR) has been defined as the relative ease with which maladaptive cognitions or cognitive styles are triggered by mild (nonpathological) mood fluctuations. CR has been found to predict relapse of depression (Segal, Gemar and Williams, 1999). This study compared different measures of CR, and also investigated the role of thought suppression as a possible mechanism underlying CR.

Design and methods: Participants included 24 previously depressed, and 24 never depressed individuals who underwent a mood induction. They also completed a questionnaire designed to measure CR (LEIDS; Van der Does, 2002a), and participated in the scrambled sentences task (SST). The SST was designed to uncover thought suppression tendencies, and has been shown to discriminate between never depressed and previously depressed samples.

Results: LEIDS scores were higher for previously depressed than for never depressed individuals. However, CR as measured with the mood induction did not distinguish between these groups. The LEIDS was correlated with the results of the SST and with self-report measures of thought suppression.

Conclusion: Active suppression of unwanted thoughts may be involved in the apparent inactive state of depressive cognitions during remission.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognition*
  • Depression* / diagnosis
  • Depression* / etiology
  • Depression* / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Remission Induction
  • Repression, Psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thinking*