Objective: Although numerous studies address the relationships of depression with coping processes directed toward approaching or avoiding stressful experiences, the large majority are cross-sectional in design, assess coping processes at only one timepoint, or solely include prediction of the linear slope of depressive symptoms. In this research, coping processes were investigated as predictors of depressive symptoms, symptom trajectory classes (consistently high, recovery, consistently low), and major depressive episodes (MDEs) over 12 months in the cancer context. Method: Women (N-460) within 4 months of breast cancer diagnosis completed assessments of cancer-related coping processes, depressive symptoms, and MDEs at 7 points across 1 year. Results: Beyond sociodemographic and medical variables, coping through cancer-related avoidance an average of 2 months after diagnosis was associated with likelihood of being in the high depressive symptom trajectory class and occurrence of a MDE during the year. Less decline in avoidant coping over time also predicted poor outcomes. In contrast, high initial engagement in approach-oriented coping, as well as increases in coping through emotional expression and acceptance, were associated with lower depressive symptoms across assessments and higher likelihood of being in the recovery or low trajectory class. Conclusions: Greater engagement in cancer-related avoidant coping was associated with all three indicators of depression, and greater approach-oriented coping was related to more favorable outcomes (except MDE). Sustained or increasing coping through emotional expression or acceptance predicted recovery from initially high depressive symptoms. Approach-and avoidance-oriented coping processes constitute malleable targets for preventive and ameliorative approaches.
- Major depressive disorde