Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Nicholas Kuiper


Leventhal's self-regulation model (SRM) was applied as a conceptual framework from which to examine individuals' cognitive representations of depressive symptoms. This thesis explored the nature of these representations, as well as factors that may impact on these representations and, in turn, influence coping strategies and professional help seeking. In particular, Study 1 examined the effect of symptom severity and the label used to identify the symptoms on the cognitive representations of depressive symptoms and coping, whereas Study 2 examined the effect of symptom duration in this regard. This thesis also considered the extent to which the various SRM domains are predictive of beliefs regarding the helpfulness of professional treatment and likely treatment use. In Study 1 (N = 315) and 2 (N = 297), undergraduate students from the University of Western Ontario were asked to self-reference experiencing low, mild, or moderate depressive symptoms. In Study 1, the symptoms were either identified with a specific label (e.g., depression) by the experimenter or were not identified with any label at all. Participants then completed measures assessing SRM belief domains regarding the depressive symptoms. Study 2 assessed what label individuals, themselves, would use to identify the presenting condition. In Study 2, individuals were also asked to imagine that the depressive symptoms have lasted longer than initially expected, and then completed the SRM measures a second time. Here, symptom severity and duration had significant effects on cognitive representations of depressive symptoms. Label use, particularly in Study 2, also had a notable effect. Furthermore, the SRM was a significant predictor of beliefs regarding the helpfulness of professional treatment and likely treatment use, with this effect being particularly strong when symptom severity was low. Moderator effects were also found in Studies 1 and 2, although these were generally limited. There was also support in Study 2 for mediator effects regarding certain aspects of the model. Implications relate to psychoeducation and mental health literacy programs designed to enhance individuals' understanding of depressive symptoms and decisions to seek treatment.