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Impulsivity in Depression: Its Relation to Suicidality.

OBJECTIVE: Impulsivity is an important risk for suicidality, which is common in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). The goal of this study was to examine multiple facets of impulsivity in depressed patients compared with healthy controls and to assess their relationship to suicidality.

METHOD: Outpatients diagnosed with MDD using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV were recruited. Two groups were constituted as "MDD in remission" (n=32) and "MDD" (n=71). The "healthy control" group (n=30) consisted of individuals who had never been diagnosed with any psychiatric disorder. Impulsivity was assessed with the Barratt Impulsivity Scale (BIS), a self-rating measure, and with the following behavioral tasks: Go/No-go Task, Iowa Gambling Task, and Balloon Analogue Risk Task. The scores of the 3 groups (n=133) were compared to evaluate the effect of MDD. The scores were also analyzed and compared in the patients in the 2 MDD groups (n=103) with respect to their current and lifetime suicidality.

RESULTS: There was no difference in the 3 groups in task scores, but nonplanning BIS was correlated with the severity of depressive symptoms. Patients with suicidal ideation (SI) had higher BIS total and attention impulsivity scores and more commission errors on the Go/No-go Task, reflecting failure in response inhibition, compared with the patients without SI.

CONCLUSIONS: Failure to show differences in impulsivity-related tasks suggests that there might be no relationship between the state of depression and impulsivity. However, these findings confirm that there is an association between SI and response inhibition and the attention facet of impulsivity in depression.

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