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An investigation of different aspects of overgeneralization in patients with major depressive disorder and borderline personality disorder

Authors

  • Thom J. van den Heuvel,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre,
      Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. GGNet Scelta Expertise Centre for Personality Disorders, The Netherlands
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  • Jan J. L. Derksen,

    1. Radboud University Nijmegen, Behavioral Science Institute, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Brussels, Belgium
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  • Paul A. T. M. Eling,

    1. Donders Centre for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Cees P. F. van der Staak

    1. Radboud University Nijmegen, Behavioral Science Institute, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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Thom J. van den Heuvel, Department of Psychiatry, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, PO Box 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands (e-mail: t.vandenheuvel@psy.umcn.nl).

Abstract

Objective. The aim of this study was to investigate whether (a) overgeneralization is restricted to negative attributions directed at the self; or whether it also extends to positive self-attributions and to attributions of situations in the outside world, and (b) whether the valence and direction (positively or negatively, to the self- or across situations) of overgeneralization processes vary among different patient populations.

Methods. Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD, n = 34), borderline personality disorder (BPD, n = 18), or both (n = 35), and never-depressed non-patients (NPs; n = 50) completed various measures of overgeneralization.

Results. Patients with MDD show higher levels of negative overgeneralization but lower levels of positive overgeneralization to the self- and across situations than NPs. Patients with MDD show more negative than positive overgeneralization to the self: a negative bias. They, however, do show higher levels of positive than negative overgeneralization across situations. Patients with BPD show the same pattern for overgeneralization to the self, but their higher levels of negative overgeneralization across situations are not exceeded by their positive counterpart.

Conclusions. Results indicate that patient groups differ from NPs not only with respect to negative, but also with respect to positive overgeneralization. Furthermore, the valence and direction of overgeneralization processes vary among MDD and BPD patient populations. More specifically, findings suggest that, as compared to never-depressed individuals, patients with BPD and patients with MDD alike, lack a buffer against negative overgeneralization directed at the self. In patients with BPD, not only the high level of overgeneralization to the self, but also the high level of overgeneralization across situations seems to be problematic, since both types of overgeneralization appear not to be buffered by their positive counterparts.

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