International Journal of Family Therapy

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 155–167 | Cite as

Toward a value diffusion theory of depression

  • Gerald H. Zuk


Unlike psychoanalytic theory, which claims that loss of a valued relationship, role, or goal trigers a trauma of infancy or childhood involving separation from the mother, value diffusion theory describes the relationship between loss and depression differently: First, loss precipitates a destabilization of values (specifically, “continuity” and “discontinuity” values) that form a part of the character of an individual; second, if the destabilization persists and is of sufficient severity, value diffusion, a state in which the individual actually experiences a loss of identity or self, occurs, which often produces a state of depression. The author draws attention to a direct relationship between concepts underlying a value diffusion theory and psychoanalytic theory of depression. Psychoanalytic theorists have noted the special significance of two kinds of loss producing depression: (1) a loss of relationships, and (2) a loss of achievements. In value diffusion theory, the first of these corresponds to one of a set of values to which the author has given the name “continuity” values in prior publications, and the second to one of a set of values given the name “discontinuity”. A case study is presented of an elderly depressed woman to illustrate certain aspects of value diffusion theory, and to contrast it with psychoanalytic and learned helplessness theory as causal explanations of depression.


Health Psychology Direct Relationship Social Issue Special Significance Causal Explanation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerald H. Zuk
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and NeurologyTulane University Medical SchoolNew OrleansUSA

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