Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Effect of Priming with Attachment Security on Positive Affect among Individuals with Depression

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Effect of Priming with Attachment Security on Positive Affect among Individuals with Depression

Article excerpt

Depression is a common mental disorder that is characterized by low mood, retardation of thought, weak willpower, and accompanying physical symptoms (Naicker, Galambos, Zeng, Senthilselvan, & Colman, 2013). Individuals with depression face not only a higher risk of suicide but also seriously impaired social and cognitive functioning (Tanner, Martinez, & Harris, 2014). The morbidity of depression continues to escalate, and it is now the most common mental health disorder worldwide (Cummings, Caporino, & Kendall, 2014).

Researchers have explored how to help individuals with depression relieve their symptoms by inducing positive emotions through the use of medication therapy, cognitive training, and psychological counseling (Monteggia, Malenka, & Deisseroth, 2014). The effect of attachment security priming, which involves activating the mental representation of security, on individuals with depression has attracted considerable research attention (Carnelley, Otway, & Rowe, 2015; Herd, 2015; Otway, 2013). According to attachment theory (Bowlby, 1988), humans have an inner working system of attachment behavior that motivates them to seek proximity with protective others (i.e., the attachment object) when in need. A timely, supportive interaction with an attachment object creates a positive working model, entailing a mental representation of a safe relationship between the self and others. In contrast, when the attachment object is not supportive, a negative working system is formed, entailing an insecure mental representation of the relationship between the self and others.

Attachment security priming promotes prosocial behavior, empathy, and altruism (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2015), and also influences positive affect in individuals with depression. For example, Herd (2015) found that patients with depression reported significantly greater positive affect after attachment security priming, compared with those who received neutral priming. Further, Carnelley et al. (2015) found that undergraduates with high levels of depression experienced more positive emotions after attachment security priming, than did those not primed. In addition, Miranda, Andersen, and Edwards (2013) reported that attachment insecurity priming could increase the experience of negative emotions in individuals with depression.

However, the results of attachment security priming are not always positive. Otway (2013) reported that neither attachment security priming nor neutral priming had any significant impact on depressive emotions in patients with depression. Further, Mallinckrodt et al. (2013) found that attachment security priming might reduce positive affect in students with high attachment anxiety.

These inconsistent results raise questions about who benefits from priming; therefore, the different types of depressive personalities must be taken into consideration. Blatt, Quinlan, Chevron, McDonald, and Zuroff(1982) posited that there are two main depressive tendencies-dependency and self-criticism- which are based on different personality traits. Dependent individuals crave a safe relationship, which is externalized as a strong desire for love and acceptance. They need to gain a sense of safety from stable intimate relationships, and tend to establish dependent relationships with others. After experiencing relationship frustration or loss, dependent individuals show obvious signs of anxiety, helplessness, and depression. Self-critical individuals pursue self-control and personal achievement, and hold a more internalized, harsh standard for themselves. They are sensitive to self-value-related frustration, such as a career setback or failure to meet a goal, and are likely to feel guilt, a lack of value, and low self-esteem, which lead to depression.

Researchers have found that attachment security priming has a positive impact on the mental representation of relationships, such as achieving a safer and more positive relationship experience, thereby activating more positive affect (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2015). …

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