Self-criticism and major depression: an evolutionary perspective

Br J Clin Psychol. 2005 Nov;44(Pt 4):505-19. doi: 10.1348/014466505X35722.


Objectives: This study sought to incorporate the personality style of self-criticism within an evolutionary framework to help explain its relationship to major depression. It was expected that self-critics would engage in poor social comparisons and have greater feelings of internal entrapment, which are both processes related to depression by evolutionary thinkers.

Design: A cross-sectional design was employed such that participants were first interviewed and then completed several questionnaires.

Methods: The sample consisted of 146 graduate students who had experienced at least one prior episode of major depression, which was confirmed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID). Participants were subsequently administered the Center for epidemiological studies depression scale (CESD), Depressive Experiences Questionnaire (DEQ), Social comparison rating scale (SCRS), and Entrapment scale (ES).

Results: Regression analyses revealed that self-criticism significantly predicted internal entrapment and social comparison when controlling for mood and for levels of dependency. Subsequent Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) revealed that a factor of self-reported entrapment and social comparison mediated the effect of self-criticism on the number of previous episodes of depression.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that part of the reason self-critics are vulnerable to clinical episodes of depression lies in their subjective experience of entrapment and in their negative social comparisons.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Concept*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires