Personality traits and the reporting of affective disorder symptoms in depressed patients

Paul R Duberstein, Marnin J Heisel
Journal of Affective Disorders 2007, 103 (1-3): 165-71

BACKGROUND: A deeper understanding of the influences on self-reported mood symptoms could inform the debate about the utility of self-report instruments and enhance the assessment and treatment of affective disorders. We tested the hypotheses that higher Neuroticism is associated with the over-reporting of affective symptoms and lower Openness to Experience is associated with the under-reporting of affective symptoms.

METHODS: Subjects were 134 inpatients of ages 50 and over diagnosed with a mood disorder. Personality was assessed with the Revised NEO Personality Inventory. Self-reported depression was assessed with the Beck Depression Inventory-II; observer-rated depression was assessed via the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. Symptom-reporting was defined as the ratio of self-reported to observer-rated symptoms.

RESULTS: As hypothesized, multivariate linear regression analyses revealed that high Neuroticism contributed to patients' over-reporting of mood symptoms. Contrary to the hypothesis, low Openness was associated with high ratios of self-reported to observer-rated mood symptoms.

LIMITATIONS: Cross-sectional design and unclear generalizability to racial/ethnic minorities.

CONCLUSIONS: Traits are important correlaters of self-reported vs. observer-rated symptoms in patients with affective disorders. To the extent that economic imperatives and other pressures impel greater reliance on self-report data in mental health research and services, there will be a corresponding need for prospective research on the determinants and clinical implications of discrepancies between self-reports and observer ratings.


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