Personality, depression, and response to psychotherapy in elderly female patients

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Edward Murray - Committee Chair


This study investigated the relationship of personality to several aspects of depression, therapy behavior, and psychotherapy outcome in elderly women. Subjects were 38 women, aged 55-84, diagnosed as depressed by staff psychiatrists and treated in individual psychotherapy at a community mental health center. The Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI) was used to assign subjects to dependent and compulsive personality groups, as these personalities were described by several theorists as depression-prone, differing in clinical symptoms and in response to psychotherapy. It was found that 94% of the depressed elderly women in this population showed dependent or compulsive traits or some variation of them, providing strong support for the theories that postulate these types are depression-prone. Data analysis addressed three broad areas of predicted differences in motivational themes, depressive symptoms, and therapy behavior/outcome. No differences were found between the personality groups on ratings of affiliation and achievement themes on projective personality data, and a supplementary analysis showed that the majority of these women were affiliation-oriented (p $<$.05). Precipitants of depression did not differ for the groups, and depressive symptomatology was not adequately tested due to the unreliability of ratings. It was found that a small number of subjects expressed suicidal ideation, and clinical data on content were insufficient to test differences between the personalities in suicide symptomatology. Dependents were found to report more anxiety (p $<$.01) and more depression (p $<$.01) than compulsives at intake, but therapists rated their depression as the same. Both groups were rated as moderately engaged in therapy, but compulsives were significantly more likely to drop out (p $<$.05), and there was a trend toward compulsives making more unilateral decisions to do so (p $<$.10). With regard to therapy outcome, both groups improved significantly over time on depression ratings (p $<$.001) and ratings of overall functioning (p $<$.001). A marginally significant Group x Time interaction (p =.07) was found for dependents showing greater improvement in depression over time.


Psychology, Clinical

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