Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Insisting on Depression, but Not Showing Symptoms: A Japanese Study of Excuse-Making

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Insisting on Depression, but Not Showing Symptoms: A Japanese Study of Excuse-Making

Article excerpt

Abstract

Since the late 1990s, Japanese psychiatrists have reported the appearance of a Modern Type Depression (MTD), which has different features from melancholic depression. Using a case vignette method, we looked at one of the distinctive features of MTD; that is, "insisting on depression". In particular, we examined whether the statement "I think I may have depressive disorder" can be accepted as an excuse for not fulfilling ones' duty when one does not show any symptoms of depressive disorder. Participants comprised 344 Japanese undergraduates who were presented with a short scenario describing social predicaments and who subsequently assessed the excuse value in terms of impression and behavioral reaction on the transgressor. Results showed that even though the transgressor did not show any symptoms of depressive disorder, insisting that one may have depressive disorder seemed to be accepted. Additionally, consistent with Weiner's cognitive (attribution)-emotion-action model, the more positive impressions observers have on the transgressor, the more they are motivated to react kindly to the transgressor. Some unexpected findings and limitations of the present study were discussed.

Keywords: account, attribution, depression, excuse, explanation, impression management, self-presentation, predicament

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1. Introduction

The purpose of the present study is to examine whether, despite the excuse maker ("I") not clearly displaying any depressive symptoms, the statement "I think I may have depressive disorder" can be accepted as a reason for not fulfilling one's duty. There is a social background that makes us ask such a research question; that is, the appearance of "modern type depression (MTD)" in Japan (e.g., Kato et al., 2011; Tarumi, 2005). Having been reported since the late 1990s, the MTD has been widely noticed by not only Japanese clinicians but also by the general population, as the MTD has different features from those of the traditional and well-known type depression (i.e., melancholic depression) (Note 1). For instance, melancholic depression is likely to occur in middle age, while the MTD is likely to occur for those who are young. Although the two types have a common depressive symptom (i.e., complaining of depressed mood), the severity and contents are different, as the symptoms of MTD are relatively mild. While the main depressive symptoms of melancholic depression will be psychomotor agitation or retardation, exhaustion and blaming oneself, those of MTD will be fatigue, not feeling good enough, avoidance, and blaming others. Among the different features between the two types of depression, the most important one that delineates the confusing MTD may be insisting on "depression". Specifically, although people with melancholic depression resist accepting a diagnosis of depression, those with MTD are willing to accept and sometimes even request a diagnosis of depression. As some Japanese psychiatrists noted (e.g., Nomura, 2008; Yoshino, 2009), the label of being depressed may function as a reason to not fulfill one's duty (stated later, in detail), which may make people with MTD insist on "depression." However, such a self-presentational explanation is hypothetical and must be examined empirically. In the present study, we examine the self-presentational hypothesis in terms of self-presentation, in particular, excuse-making, which has long been studied in social psychology.

In the area of self-presentation, mental illness, as well as excuse-making, is categorized as defensive impression management, which occurs when an individual experiences or anticipates a predicament in order to restore a positive identity or to avoid negative reactions from others (Tedeschi & Norman, 1985). Previous studies suggested that various psychological symptoms serve to a self-protective function (Baumgardenr, 1991; Baumgardenr, Lake, & Arkin, 1985; B. …

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