Psychological factors that make people vulnerable to the development of depression and anxiety should receive more attention in the prevention and treatment of these disorders according to Sascha Struijs. Struijs will defend his thesis ‘Psychological Vulnerability in Depressive and Anxiety Disorders’ at Amsterdam UMC on April 2nd.
Psychologist Sascha Struijs has studied the role of avoidance behavior, certain thinking patterns and personality traits in people with depression and anxiety. For this, almost three thousand people with and without depression or anxiety disorder, were followed for multiple years. These people were part of the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA), a longitudinal cohort study that started in 2004 and is still ongoing.
Psychological traits that made people vulnerable to developing depression and anxiety where avoidance behavior, emotional instability, introversion and a low degree of perceived control. These traits were relatively stable over the years, and also increased the risk of a persisting, more chronic, depression or anxiety disorder. That is why Sascha Struijs advocates not only treating the symptoms in people with depression or anxiety disorder, but also paying specific attention to the underlying psychological vulnerability, as it is possible to reduce this vulnerability with, for example, psychological treatment. The NESDA study shows that once people have a depression or anxiety disorder, it is difficult for them to recover. That is why Struijs also recommends using preventive measures for vulnerable people wherever possible. This will hopefully prevent the development of more serious psychiatric disorders.