Towards explaining and restoring dysfunctional affect dynamics in depression: the role of sub-optimal goal constellations.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a highly prevalent and debilitating mental disorder, marked by severe emotional disturbances. Besides alterations in average levels of positive and negative affect, these disturbances are evident in the dynamical patterns with which MDD patients’ affect unfolds over time. Although there is fair consensus that these dysfunctional affect dynamics constitute an important perpetuating mechanism in MDD, the pathogenic processes underlying these dysfunctional affective patterns remain poorly understood. The current research project aims to close this knowledge gap, and considers dysfunctional affect dynamics in MDD from a motivational perspective: How MDD patients perceive, prioritize, and pursue personally relevant goals is crucial to understanding their affective derailment. Examining both between- and within-person associations, in both correlational and intervention studies, we propose an integrative research program in which we investigate how MDD patients’ goal constellations form the detrimental basis for the dysregulation of their affect dynamics. An advanced understanding of this relation will undoubtedly provide clinicians with new therapeutic tools to tackle the mood-related symptoms of this difficult-to-treat patient group.