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Gut, E. (1982). Cause and Function of the Depressed Response. A Hypothesis. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:179-189.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:179-189

Cause and Function of the Depressed Response. A Hypothesis

Emmy Gut


This paper builds on the hypothesis that the capacity to respond with depressed reactions is part of our genetic equipment; that the response is provoked by specific situations; and that it can serve a specific adaptive function. It is proposed that what different types of provoking distress have in common is an unconscious perception that some significant intent to action fails to be carried out for reasons not comprehended at the time. The perplexity caused by this uncomprehended frustration provokes the various reactions that are part of the basic depressed response. These reactions tend, without any aim, to reduce activities irrelevant to the current crisis. This facilitates intensified, though largely unconscious, information processing of data from within and without that might resolve the perplexity. This sequence is referred to as the 'work of depression' which, under favourable conditions, will have a productive outcome: methods to achieve or reasons to modify the original aim are found, or the aim itself is abandoned. In unfavourable circumstances depression remains unproductive, as in depressive illness. A person's appraisal of the situation that is provoking his reactions of depression is seen as distinct from appraisals that would cause him to react with grief, anger, fear or anxiety, respectively. In addition, the adaptive function of the depressed response is seen as distinct from the adaptive functions of other affects.

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