International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Volume 11 Num. 3 - October 2011


Overgeneral Memory Retrieval and Ineffective Problem-Solving in Depressed Patients with Suicidal Ideation: Implications for Therapy

Volume 11 Num. 3 - October 2011 - Pages 413-423


H. Kaviani , M. Rahimi , P. Rahimi-Darabad , H.R. Naghavi


The present study was designed to extend our knowledge around cognitive aspects of memory retrieval and problem-solving in two groups of clinically depressed patients. We administered an autobiographical memory test, a means-ends problem-solving task, Beck Depression Inventory, and Beck Hopelessness Scale to measure respectively level of specificity in memory retrieval, problem-solving effectiveness, depression and hopelessness in clinically depressed patients with suicidal ideation and in a matched control group of depressed patients without suicide ideation. Both groups met DSM-IV criteria for major depression disorder without psychotic features. The depressed suicide-ideators were significantly more hopeless than their non-ideator counterparts. Also an overall tendency was found for the ideator group to retrieve less specific memories compared to the non-ideator group. Depressed patients? bias toward negative memory retrieval is broadly documented. Access to non-specific memories in depressed people can lead to ineffective problem solutions and subsequently hopelessness. By this account, this very vicious cycle continues over time to resonate powerfully, perhaps leading to suicidal attempt. An emergence of suicidal ideation when assessing helps clinicians identify those who are most at risk for suicide. They can be targeted then for intensive therapy designed to lower the risk.

Key words:

Depression, suicide ideation, autobiographical memory, problem-solving.

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