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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Increases Sensitivity to Long Term Losses among Patients with Major Depressive Disorder


Engelmann, Jan B; Maciuba, Britta; Vaughan, Christopher; Paulus, Martin P; Dunlop, Boadie W (2013). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Increases Sensitivity to Long Term Losses among Patients with Major Depressive Disorder. PLoS ONE, 8(10):e78292.

Abstract

Background

Decisions under risk and with outcomes that are delayed in time are ubiquitous in real life and can have a significant impact on the health and wealth of the decision-maker. Despite its potential relevance for real-world choices, the degree of aberrant risky and intertemporal decision-making in patients suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has received little attention to date.

Method

We used a case-control design to compare decision-making in healthy control subjects (N=16) versus untreated depressed subjects in a current major depressive episode (N=20). In order to examine how major depressive disorder (MDD) may impact decision-making, subjects made decisions over (1) risky outcomes and (2) delayed outcomes in the domain of gains and losses using choice paradigms from neuroeconomics. In a pre-planned analysis, depressed subjects were subdivided into those with primary PTSD along with comorbid MDD (MDD+PTSD) versus those with primary MDD without PTSD (MDD-only). Choice behavior was modeled via a standard econometric model of intertemporal choice, a quasi-hyperbolic temporal discounting function, which was estimated for each subject group separately.

Results

Under conditions of potential gain, depressed subjects demonstrated greater discounting for gains across all time frames compared to controls. In the realm of losses, both subgroups of depressed subjects discounted more steeply than controls for short time frames. However, for delayed losses ranging from >1-10 years, MDD+PTSD subjects showed shallower discounting rates relative to MDD-only subjects, who continued to discount future losses steeply. Risk attitudes did not contribute to differences in intertemporal choice.

Conclusions

Depressed patients make choices that minimize current pain and maximize current reward, despite severe later consequences or lost opportunities. Anxiety associated with PTSD may serve as a partially protective factor in decision-making about long-term potential losses compared to MDD patients without PTSD.

Abstract

Background

Decisions under risk and with outcomes that are delayed in time are ubiquitous in real life and can have a significant impact on the health and wealth of the decision-maker. Despite its potential relevance for real-world choices, the degree of aberrant risky and intertemporal decision-making in patients suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has received little attention to date.

Method

We used a case-control design to compare decision-making in healthy control subjects (N=16) versus untreated depressed subjects in a current major depressive episode (N=20). In order to examine how major depressive disorder (MDD) may impact decision-making, subjects made decisions over (1) risky outcomes and (2) delayed outcomes in the domain of gains and losses using choice paradigms from neuroeconomics. In a pre-planned analysis, depressed subjects were subdivided into those with primary PTSD along with comorbid MDD (MDD+PTSD) versus those with primary MDD without PTSD (MDD-only). Choice behavior was modeled via a standard econometric model of intertemporal choice, a quasi-hyperbolic temporal discounting function, which was estimated for each subject group separately.

Results

Under conditions of potential gain, depressed subjects demonstrated greater discounting for gains across all time frames compared to controls. In the realm of losses, both subgroups of depressed subjects discounted more steeply than controls for short time frames. However, for delayed losses ranging from >1-10 years, MDD+PTSD subjects showed shallower discounting rates relative to MDD-only subjects, who continued to discount future losses steeply. Risk attitudes did not contribute to differences in intertemporal choice.

Conclusions

Depressed patients make choices that minimize current pain and maximize current reward, despite severe later consequences or lost opportunities. Anxiety associated with PTSD may serve as a partially protective factor in decision-making about long-term potential losses compared to MDD patients without PTSD.

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5 citations in Web of Science®
4 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:01 Nov 2013 15:26
Last Modified:21 Nov 2017 16:54
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0078292
PubMed ID:24116235

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