Symptoms versus a diagnosis of depression: differences in psychosocial functioning

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1995 Feb;63(1):90-100. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.63.1.90.


In studies of clinical depression, individuals who demonstrate elevated levels of symptoms but do not meet interview-based diagnostic criteria are typically labeled as false positive and eliminated from further consideration. However, the implicit assumption that false-positive participants differ in important ways from true-positive (i.e., diagnosed) participants has not been tested systematically. This study compared the functioning of true-positive, false-positive, and true-negative adolescents on clinical and psychosocial functioning. Although the false-positive participants manifested higher levels of current and future psychopathology than did the true-negative participants, they did not differ significantly from the true-positive participants on most of the measures of psychosocial dysfunction. "False positive," therefore, is not a benign condition.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological