Year: 2020 Source: Journal of Affective Disorders. (2020). 263, 472-479. SIEC No: 20200061

Introduction: This study examined whether patients with hopelessness and those without may significantly differ regarding their main presentations and clinical course in a large Italian population.

Methods: The recruited sample included 583 currently euthymic outpatients with major affective disorders. The Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS) assessed hopelessness using a cutoff score of 9 or higher. Participants were categorized based on the presence/absence of hopelessness. A binary logistic regression analysis -accounting for age and gender and considering history of psychotherapy, emotional/physical abuse, depressive symptoms, Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS) total score, difficulties identifying and communicating feelings as potential predictors- was carried out in order to detect the variables associated with hopelessness.

Results: Individuals with hopelessness, compared to those without, were more likely to be older (p=0.005), females (p=0.01), to have a unipolar depressive disorder (p≤0.05), be prescribed antidepressants and psychotherapy in the past (p=0.001 and p≤0.05). Moreover, individuals with hopelessness scored higher on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (p≤0.05) and on the emotional (p=<0.001), physical abuse (p≤0.01) and physical neglect (p≤0.05) subscales of the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire – Short form, and reported more difficulties identifying (p≤0.001) and communicating feelings (p≤0.001) than those without hopelessness. The multivariate analysis showed that having difficulties identifying feelings is independently associated with hopelessness.

Discussion: These findings indicate that individuals with difficulties identifying feelings are at higher risk of hopelessness and of negative outcomes. Further studies need to explore the impact of alexithymia on hopelessness and clinical outcomes in the lifetime illness course.