Romantic relationship breakup: An experimental model to study effects of stress on depression (-like) symptoms

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Abstract

The occurrence of a stressful event is considered to increase the risk of developing depression. In the present study we explore whether the breakup of a romantic relationship can be used as an experimental model to study a depression-like state during a period of stress in individuals without a psychiatric disorder. The primary aim of our study was to investigate: 1) whether individuals with a recent romantic relationship breakup ("heartbreak") demonstrate symptoms of depression, 2) how to describe heartbreak characteristics based on data from a comprehensive questionnaire battery, and 3) whether this description can capture severity of depression symptoms. Secondary, we were interested in gender differences with regard to the above study objectives. Subjects who have experienced a relationship breakup in the preceding six months (N = 71) or are in a romantic relationship (N = 46) participated in our study. A questionnaire battery was administered to acquire information related to depression, mood, the breakup and (former) relationship. Principal Component Analysis with Procrustes bootstrapping was performed to extract components from the questionnaire data. Even though our sample of individuals who recently have experienced a relationship breakup can be on average considered non-depressed, group-level depression scores were elevated compared to individuals in a relationship (p =.001) and 26.8% reported symptoms corresponding to mild, moderate or severe depression. We described heartbreak by two principal components interpreted as "sudden loss" and "lack of positive affect", respectively. Highly significant correlations between the component scores and depression scores were found (p

Original languageEnglish
Article number0217320
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume14
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31-May-2019

Keywords

  • MAJOR DEPRESSION
  • LIFE EVENTS
  • NEGATIVE AFFECT
  • INVENTORY
  • ONSET
  • COMPONENTS
  • RUMINATION
  • DISORDERS
  • FEMALE
  • NUMBER

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