Emotional suppression and depressive symptoms in women newly diagnosed with early breast cancer

BMC Womens Health. 2015 Oct 24;15:91. doi: 10.1186/s12905-015-0254-6.


Background: Patients with breast cancer usually present varying levels of depressive symptoms. Emotional suppression, as a coping style, refers to an individual's ability to consciously control expression of negative emotions. Thus, emotional suppression is an important psychological factor related to depressive symptoms in patients with breast cancer. It has long been considered that compared to European and American women, Chinese women are more likely to ascribe to norms of negative emotion control for smooth social interaction. However, there is paucity of research focusing on emotional suppression among Chinese women with breast cancer. Thus the aims of the current study were (1) to investigate the incidence of depressive symptoms in women newly diagnosed with early breast cancer in Mainland China, and (2) to examine the relationships between emotional suppression and depressive symptoms in these patients.

Methods: The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) and the Chinese version of the Courtauld Emotional Control Scale (CECS) were used to assess the level of depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms and emotional suppression respectively in 247 women with early breast cancer and 362 healthy women. Analyses of variance were conducted to investigate group differences on depressive symptoms and emotional suppression. Bivariate correlations and Hierarchical regression analyses were performed to examine the effect of emotional suppression on depressive symptoms in participants after controlling the impact of group membership and anxiety level.

Results: (1) The incidence rates of clinical and severe depressive symptoms in patients were 36.4 and 36.0 % respectively. (2) Patients scored significantly higher than healthy women on CECS. (3) The scores on CECS were significantly associated with the total CES-D scores in all participants; Anger suppression significantly predicted the total CES-D scores.

Conclusions: The majority of women newly diagnosed with early breast cancer reported clinical or severe depressive symptoms. As well, these patients presented a controlled emotion coping style. Emotional suppression was associated with the level of depressive symptoms in women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Anger suppression might play a unique role in the depressive symptoms among women newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • China
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires