How etiological explanations for depression impact perceptions of stigma, treatment effectiveness, and controllability of depression.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: There is controversy regarding how etiological explanations for depression, particularly biological explanations, influence perceptions of stigma, perceived controllability of depression, and perceived effectiveness of depression treatments. This study evaluated how biological and psychosocial explanations for depression relate to these variables. METHOD: Undergraduate students who reported ever suffering from clinical depression (n = 36) and who reported no personal history of depression (n = 33) completed a diagnostic interview and questionnaires assessing etiology beliefs, stigma perceptions, perceived controllability of depression, and perceived effectiveness of different depression treatments. RESULTS: Although "ever depressed" participants perceived more stigma than "never depressed" participants, endorsing either etiological model had little relation to perceived stigma. Endorsing psychosocial explanations was associated with perceiving self-initiated treatments as effective, and self-initiated treatments were viewed as more effective than either psychotherapy or medical interventions. CONCLUSIONS: Stigmatizing attitudes about depression appear more meaningfully related to individuals' personal experiences with depression than to etiological explanations for depression; yet etiological models appear to have important implications for treatment preference and perceived controllability of mood.
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