The Mereology of Depression : Networks of Depressive Symptoms during the Course of Psychotherapy

Background: Research has shown that it is important to examine depressive symptoms in the light of the mereology (the ratio between one symptom and the whole disorder). The goal of this study was to examine changes in the symptom interrelations of patients undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy treatment (CBT) via network analyses.

Method: Outpatients with depressive symptoms (N = 401) were assessed with the Beck Depression Inventory three times (pretreatment, after 12 sessions, and post-treatment) during CBT. Gaussian graphical models were used to estimate the relationships among symptoms.

Results: The severity of depressive symptoms significantly decreased over the course of therapy, but connectivity in the networks significantly increased. Communities of symptoms changed during treatment. The most central and predictable symptom was worthlessness at baseline and after 12 sessions, and loss of energy and self-dislike at post-treatment.

Conclusion: The results indicate that the severity of depressive symptoms decreased during cognitive behavior therapy, while network connectivity increased. Furthermore, the associations among symptoms and their centrality changed during the course of therapy. Future studies may investigate individual differences and their impact on the planning of psychotherapeutic treatment.


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