Friday, August 27, 2010

Memory, child abuse and depression

Autobiographical memory is our memory of events and experiences from our own past rather than of skills like how to make a cup of tea, or facts like what the capital of Sweden is. Psychologists divide autobiographical memories into a number of different kinds. They can be of specific events, extended periods of time or of different categories of events e.g. all the times I have done embarrassing or stupid things. Psychologists call the last kind of autobiographical memory 'categorical' and there is evidence that too much of this kind of autobiographical memory - 'overgeneral memory' - can be linked to depression. There is also evidence that childhood sexual abuse can lead to people being more likely to experience overgeneral memory. Researchers from the universities of Manchester and Oxford studied this issue in a sample of 103 women aged between 25 and 37. The researchers found that overgeneral memory was associated with childhood sexual abuse even in women who weren't depressed. However, the women who were depressed and who had suffered childhood sexual abuse were more likely to have more overgeneral memories.

Aglan, Azza ... [et al] - Overgeneral autobiographical memory in women: association with childhood abuse and history of depression in a community sample British Journal of Clinical Psychology September 2010, 49(3), 359-372

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