Cognitive reactivity: investigation of a potentially treatable marker of suicide risk in depression

J Affect Disord. 2010 Apr;122(1-2):46-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2009.06.013. Epub 2009 Jul 7.


Background: Suicidal ideation is the most stable symptom of depression across episodes. This relative stability may be brought about by increased cognitive reactivity to sad mood (CR) during periods of remission. The idea is that a network of depressive cognitions, which include suicidal ideation, becomes strengthened with each episode of depression. Consequently, the whole network may be more easily re-activated, for instance by an episode of low mood. We examined the association between reactivity of suicidal cognitions during recovery and the presence of suicidal ideation and behavior during the previous depressive episode.

Methods: In a case-control design, the CR profiles of recovered depressed participants with (N=355) and without (N=250) a history of suicidal ideation were compared. Structured clinical interviews were used to determine diagnoses and prior symptoms. Cognitive reactivity profile was measured with the Leiden Index of Depression Sensitivity-Revised (LEIDS-R).

Results: Suicidal ideation during a depressive episode was associated with a distinct CR profile during remission: elevated hopelessness reactivity scores. This relationship between prior suicidality and current CR was independent of anxiety disorder comorbidity. Moreover, a history of suicide attempt(s) was also associated with a distinct CR profile. These individuals had both higher hopelessness reactivity and higher aggression reactivity than the non-suicidal and suicidal ideation groups.

Limitations: Symptoms during the previous depressive episode were assessed retrospectively.

Conclusions: This is the first study to show that CR may underlie the relative stability of suicidal symptoms independent of anxiety comorbidity and that suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior are associated with distinct patterns of CR. Since CR is a potentially treatable vulnerability marker of depression recurrence, this has important clinical implications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / therapy*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology