Bias in beliefs about the self is associated with depressive but not anxious mood

M.C. Obonsawin, J. Carlisle, C.J. Patterson, K. Black, K.M. Davidson, N. Masson

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Background: Biases in beliefs about the self are associated with psychopathology and depressive and anxious mood, but it is not clear if both negative and positive beliefs are associated with depression or anxiety. We examined these relationships in people who present with a wide range of depressive and anxious mood across diagnostic categories.
Methods: We probed positive and negative beliefs about the self with a task in which 74 female participants with either Affective Disorder (depression and/or anxiety), Borderline Personality Disorder or no psychiatric history indicated the degree to which 60 self-related words was “like them” or “not like them”. Depressive and anxious mood were assessed with the Beck Depression Inventory–II and the Beck Anxiety Inventory.
Results: The participants with no psychiatric history (n=25) reported a positive bias in their beliefs about the self, the participants with Affective Disorder (n=23) reported no bias, and the participants with BPD (n=26) reported a negative bias. Two hierarchical multiple regressions demonstrated that the positive and negative beliefs contributed additively to the ratings of depression (corrected for anxiety), but did not contribute to the ratings of anxiety (corrected for depression).
Limitations: Despite the apparent small sample size, the regression analyses indicated adequate sampling. Anxiety is a much more heterogeneous condition than is depression, so it may be difficult to find relevant self-descriptors. Only measures of endorsement were used.
Conclusions: Biases in beliefs about the self are associated with depressed, but not anxious mood, across diagnostic categories
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-188
Number of pages9
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Early online date21 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2017


  • depression
  • anxiety
  • borderline personality disorder
  • beliefs
  • self
  • affective disorder
  • Beck Depression Inventory
  • Beck Anxiety Inventory

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