Functional competence in major depressive disorder: Objective performance and subjective perceptions
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BACKGROUND: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is increasingly recognized as a disorder of everyday functioning. Multi-level approaches to investigating functioning have been employed in other conditions whereby competence (ability to perform living skills) is distinguished from real-world functioning, but not yet in MDD. We used a multidimensional (adaptive and interpersonal), multi-level (competence and performance) approach to investigate differences between those with MDD and healthy comparisons (HC) on measures of competence, functional disability, and self-perceived competence. METHODS: Between-group analysis of variance identified differences between MDD (n = 42) and HC (n = 24). Moderation analysis determined whether the strength of the relationship between competence accuracy and self-perception of performance was related to group membership. RESULTS: In adaptive and interpersonal domains, the MDD group performed significantly lower on competence tasks, endorsed greater functional disability, and reported lower self-perception of competence. Group membership did not moderate the relationship between competence and self-perceived competence in the adaptive domain. Significant moderation was observed in the interpersonal domain such that competence and self-perception of abilities converged in the HC, but not MDD, group. LIMITATIONS: A cross-sectional design precluded the ability to interpret causality of results. Functional disability was measured by interview, thereby susceptible to biases in self-report. CONCLUSIONS: A multi-level approach to assessing functioning in MDD was supported. Performance-based measures of functional competence are sensitive to MDD and useful for research trials and clinical work to objectively track everyday living skills. Objective measurement is further supported, as those with depression are less likely to accurately evaluate their own abilities, even after demonstrating skills.
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