The Depression Sensitivity Index: Initial Development and Tests of Convergent and Construct Validity

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Background: Depression and suicide are prominent and increasing U.S. public health issues, which suggests novel assessment and treatment approaches are needed. Reiss’ Expectancy Model of Fear, Anxiety, and Panic states that fear is based on two classes of variables, expectations and sensitivities, which has led to much research on anxiety sensitivity as a significant risk factor for later anxiety psychopathology. Major depressive disorder also includes biased expectations and sensitivities; however, a depression sensitivity rooted in Expectancy Theory has never been formalized. Uncovering depression-related sensitivities may lead to earlier risk detection and prevention before mood disorders develop.

Method: The goal of the paper was to create a Depression Sensitivity Index using exploratory factor analysis and item response theory and then conduct tests of convergent and construct validity using structural equation modeling using three independent samples.

Results: Indicated two lower order factors: 1) physical and cognitive concerns (DSPCC) and 2) social concerns (DSSC). Factors showed incremental associations with depression (DSPCC), social anxiety (both) and suicidal thoughts and behaviors (DSPCC), above and beyond anxiety sensitivity cognitive concerns. Both factors together predicted depressive disorder diagnoses

Limitations: Mostly self-report data, large percentage of non-Hispanic White participants in Study 1.

Conclusions: The results offer initial evidence that expectancy theory applies beyond “fear, anxiety, and panic” and that with further development depression sensitivity could be an important intervention target for prevention of major depressive disorder and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

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Journal of Affective Disorders



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