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Embodiment of Sadness and Depression—Gait Patterns Associated With Dysphoric Mood

Michalak, Johannes PhD; Troje, Nikolaus F. Dr rer nat; Fischer, Julia Dipl-Psych; Vollmar, Patrick Dipl-Psych; Heidenreich, Thomas PhD; Schulte, Dietmar PhD

doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181a2515c
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Objective: To analyze gait patterns associated with sadness and depression. Embodiment theories suggest a reciprocal relationship between bodily expression and the way in which emotions are processed.

Methods: In Study 1, the gait patterns of 14 inpatients suffering from major depression were compared with those of matched never-depressed participants. In Study 2, we employed musical mood induction to induce sad and positive mood in a sample of 23 undergraduates. A Fourier-based description of walking data served as the basis for the computation of linear classifiers and for the analysis of gait parameters.

Results: Gait patterns associated with sadness and depression are characterized by reduced walking speed, arm swing, and vertical head movements. Moreover, depressed and sad walkers displayed larger lateral swaying movements of the upper body and a more slumped posture.

Conclusion: The results of the present study indicate that a specific gait pattern characterizes individuals in dysphoric mood.

ANCOVA = analysis of covariance; BDI = Beck Depression Inventory; DSM = Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; MANOVA = multivariate analysis of variance; MDD = major depressive disorder; SCID = Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV; SNRI = serotonin noradrenalin reuptake inhibitors; SSRI = selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

From the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy (J.M., J.F., D.S.), Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany; Queen's University (N.F.T.), Kingston, Ontario, Canada; (P.V.) Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technical University Munich; and University of Applied Sciences (U.H.), Esslingen, Germany.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Johannes Michalak, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Ruhr-University Bochum, 44789 Bochum, Germany. E-mail: Johannes.Michalak@rub.de

Received for publication August 18, 2008; revision received December 17, 2008.

Supported by a grant from the research fund of the center for psychotherapy of the Ruhr-University, Bochum, Germany, and a fellowship from the Human Frontiers Science Program (J.M.), as well as a Discovery Grant and a Steacie Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (N.F.T.).

Copyright © 2009 by American Psychosomatic Society
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