Purpose of this article
The overall purposes of this and future articles under development are to enhance women's psychological strengths to cope with the stresses and pressures in their daily lives. This article in particular is to create awareness especially in women, to understand depression from a multifaceted perspective, with "Self-Attribution, Cognitive Distortions and Depression" being the first perspective examined in this current study. The expectant outcome is the hope that women's coping knowledge and abilities will be enhanced, through a more scientific (researched based) and empirical understanding and awareness.
Women and Depression
The author would like to begin the discussion of this present topic: "Psychology of Women: Self-Attribution, Cognitive Distortions and Depression", with two questions. 1) How can depression be described in a brief manner? 2) Is depression a universal and common experience?
To answer the first question, the author refers to Sharf (2000) who considered the mild "signs of depression" as including: "sadness, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, social withdrawal, and loss of sleep, appetite, sexual desire, or interest in activities". He considered the severe" signs of depression" as displaying "slow speech, difficulty in sitting still, inattention to personal appearance, and pervasive feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, as well as suicidal thoughts and feelings".
The answer to the second question, the author refers to Evans & Tait (1991) who when answering their own question, as to whether depression was a universal experience, quoted Seligman (1975), who described depression as the 'common cold of abnormal behavior'. Evans & Tait (1991) believed that, Seligman's description was to draw attention to the fact that we all experience it occasionally. So, while depression can be experienced either mildly or severely, depression is definitely both universal and common. And it is an especially a common experience among women.
Gender differences in depression
Why is mental illness (depression) more common among women? Weiten & Lloyd (2006) in asserting that women were "twice as likely as men to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders...", also quoted Rosenfield (1999) to explain the "gender difference in mental illness" (depression). According to Rosenfield (1999), women seem to direct their "negative, hostile, anxious feelings and conflicts" inwards against their self, while, men direct them outwards - either against another person or against the society. In short, under the influence of mental illness like depression, women seem to want hurt themselves, while men seem to want to hurt others. Why is this so? The author would answer this question in a future article entitled: "Psychology of Women: Self-Identity", as the scope of this article is limited to the examination of "Self-Attribution and Depression".
Self-Attribution, Cognitive Distortions, and Depression
The author would emphasis again, that self-attribution is one of the perspectives through which one can understand depression, which is multifaceted in nature. Therefore, women should not attribute everything in their lives to self-attribution, neither is depression all the time due to negative self- attribution. But all negative self-attributions, involves some sort of cognitive distortions. The author would like to next describe the inter-link between cognitive distortions, self-attribution and depression. To begin with, who initially developed the self-attribution theory? And what is the self-attribution theory?
Self Attribution Theory
Fritz Heider (1958), Edward Jones (1965), Keith Davis (1965) and Harold Kelley (1967), who were all social psychologists, were responsible for the initial development of self-attribution theory. What is self-attribution? Based on the studies of Heider (1958); Jones (1965) Davis (1965) and Kelly (1967), self-attribution can be understood as the cognitive perception of persons in attributing the causes of behavior (theirs or others) or events to three dimensions of: 1) internal or external; 2) stable or unstable and 3) controllable or uncontrollable.
Internal refers to the location of a cause of behavior or event to oneself, whether it is disposition, trait or personality of a person. External refers to the location of a cause of behavior or event to external (outside the disposition, trait or personality of a person) behaviors, events, luck, or chance. Stable refers to a permanent or an unalterable state of being in a person or condition in a situation. Unstable refers to impermanent or an alterable state of being in a person or condition in a situation. Controllable refers to having power over someone or something, to change or alter the state of being in a person or a condition in a situation. Uncontrollable refers to having no power over someone or something, to change or alter the state of being in a person or a condition in a situation. Based on these three dimensions, there are multiple combinations of cognitive perceptions of self-attribution. The following examples are meant to be fictitious demonstrative scenarios in relation to two combinations of cognitive perceptions of self-attribution.
1. Self- attribution: internal, stable, uncontrollable
Event: Mr. A has an affair with Ms. B.
Mrs. A's Response according to first combination of cognitive perceptions of self-attribution.: Mrs. A would blame herself (internal) for her husband's infidelity. She views (subjective) her physical and sexual deficits in comparison to Ms. B as an unalterable handicap (stable). Thus, based on her physical and sexual deficit causes that could not satisfy Mr. A, Mrs. A would view her husband's actions as naturally predictable (uncontrollable). What would be the impact on Mrs. A? The answer is obvious, depression (Riso et. al, 2003). How can Mrs. A prevent her depression from being long termed or chronic? The answer lies in the second scenario.
2. Self- attribution: external, unstable, controllable
Event: Mr. A has an affair with Ms. B.
Mrs. A's Response according to second combination of cognitive perceptions of self-attribution: Mrs. A would blame Ms. B. and her husband (external) for their infidelity. Why accept the blame for a perpetrator of a wrong doing? Why not locate the blame where it is due? She would view (objectively) her physical and sexual deficits to satisfy Mr. A, in comparison to Ms. B as alterable (unstable), untrue or as unjustified. Physical and sexual deficits are very subjective. What is considered beautiful and sexy, in one culture and to one individual, may not be the same with another. There is always an opportunity to enhance one's beauty and sexuality. Anyway a woman must be reminder that in infidelity, spouses for the purpose of rationalizations may look for deficits even when there is none.
Why volunteer to give reasons for the rationalizations of an unfaithful spouse? Thus, she would view her husband's actions as inexcusable (controllable). Mr. A has control over his decisions and actions in his affair with Ms. B, for if there is none, Ms. B can be possibly accused for rape. Was Mr. A raped by Ms. B? What would be the impact on Mrs. A? The answer is obvious, there might be an initial depression, but it will not be long term or chronic, especially, if Mrs. A opens herself to marital counseling. Next, the author would like to discuss about the cognitive distortions found in the foregoing first combination of cognitive perceptions of self-attribution.