Thought–Action Fusion in Individuals with a History of Recurrent Depression and Suicidal Depression: Findings from a Community Sample

Although suicidal ideation is one of the most consistent symptoms across recurrent episodes of depression, the mechanisms underpinning its maintenance are poorly understood.


In order to develop effective treatments for suicidally depressed patients, understanding what maintains suicidal distress is critical. We hypothesised that Thought–Action Fusion (TAF), i.e., to assume that having a thought has real world consequences, originally described in Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder, might be a bias in recurrently suicidally depressed people. To assess this, we revised the original TAF scale, and assessed TAF in three samples: healthy controls, recurrently depressed individuals with no history of suicidality (D-NS) and individuals with a history of recurrent suicidal depression (D-S). Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses indicated a three-factor solution of TAF: (1) TAF for uncontrollable events, (2) self-suicidal TAF for suicidal acts related to oneself, and (3) TAF for positive controllable events. Compared to healthy controls, the D-NS group reported significantly higher total TAF, TAF uncontrollable, and TAF self-suicidal subscales, whilst positive controllable TAF was lower compared to healthy controls. Both D-S and D-NS samples reported higher TAF for suicidal thought compared to healthy controls, i.e., believing that having suicidal thoughts means they will act on them, however in the context of low mood this became more pronounced for the D-S group. These findings suggest that targeting TAF both in suicidal and non-suicidal depression has merit.

Cognitive Therapy and Research, 2018, 1–12,

Published Aug. 20, 2018 7:00 AM