Comparing treatment relevant etiological explanations for depression and social anxiety: Effects on self-stigmatizing attitudes
This study examines the impact of three different etiological explanations on self-stigmatizing attitudes among individuals with clinical symptom levels of either major depressive disorder (MDD; n = 144) or social anxiety disorder (SAD; n = 175). Participants were randomly assigned to view an audiovisual presentation describing their symptoss as being caused by biological (BIO) or cognitive-behavioral (CB) factors, or their combination (BIO+CB). Self-blame and perceived helplessness were significantly greater in the CB condition compared to the BIO condition. There was no significant difference in prognostic pessimism, perceived dangerousness, and unpredictability between the CB and BIO conditions. All self-stigmatizing attitudes were worse in the BIO+CB condition compared to the BIO condition. The MDD group endorsed significantly higher levels of self-stigmatizing attitudes compared to the SAD group. The present findings suggest that cognitive-behavioral etiological explanations may increase self-stigma compared to biological-only explanations. Combined biological and cognitive-behavioral explanations appear to have a particularly negative impact on self-stigmatizing attitudes among people with clinical levels of MDD or SAD symptoms. Individuals with symptoms of MDD generally endorse more self-stigmatizing attitudes compared to those with symptoms of SAD, even when controlling for general hopelessness. The clinical implications of these findings are discussed.