Emotional reactivity to daily events in major and minor depression

J Abnorm Psychol. 2011 Feb;120(1):155-67. doi: 10.1037/a0021662.


Although emotional dysfunction is an important aspect of major depressive disorder (MDD), it has rarely been studied in daily life. Peeters, Nicolson, Berkhof, Delespaul, and deVries (2003) observed a surprising mood-brightening effect when individuals with MDD reported greater reactivity to positive events. To better understand this phenomenon, we conducted a multimethod assessment of emotional reactivity to daily life events, obtaining detailed reports of appraisals and event characteristics using the experience-sampling method and the Day Reconstruction Method (Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2004) in 35 individuals currently experiencing a major depressive episode, 26 in a minor depressive (mD) episode, and 38 never-depressed healthy controls. Relative to healthy controls, both mood-disordered groups reported greater daily negative affect and lower positive affect and reported events as less pleasant, more unpleasant, and more stressful. Importantly, MDD and mD individuals reported greater reductions in negative affect following positive events, an effect that converged across assessment methods and was not explained by differences in prevailing affect, event appraisals, or medications. Implications of this curious mood-brightening effect are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Patient Selection
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*