The unique predictive value of discrete depressive symptoms on derailment

Kaylin Ratner, Anthony L. Burrow, Jane Mendle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Studies have consistently demonstrated a positive cross-sectional association between depressive symptoms and derailment, or the sense of being “off-course” in life. Still unknown is whether all symptoms of depression similarly relate to derailment. Given that depressive symptoms do not weigh equally in the prediction of other important outcomes, this study aimed to bridge the gap between these novel findings and emerging perspectives focused on the impact of individual depressive symptoms. Methods: The study was preregistered prior to data collection. The analytic sample contained 1,457 adults (Mage = 37.46 years, 54.22% female) recruited from Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Participants self-reported on depression using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, and perceived changes in identity and self-direction using the Derailment Scale. Results: All symptoms of depression shared positive unadjusted associations with derailment. Feelings of failure, fatigue, and sleep problems shared positive unique associations with derailment, and represented the top three contributors to the explained variance in derailment. Limitations: This study relied on self-report methods, making results vulnerable to bias (e.g., social desirability, errors in memory, interpretation). Conclusions: As work understanding the association between depressive symptoms and derailment continues to unfold, this study has provided markers for researchers and clinicians by suggesting that those who feel like they have failed, are fatigued, or report sleep problems may be the most likely to feel off-course and disconnected from their past selves. This work helps establish the utility of considering identity within the context of mental health, and future directions stemming from these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-68
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Derailment
  • Identity
  • Perceived change
  • Self-direction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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