What is this theory? What exactly does it theorize?
A theory, posing that depression and excessive reassurance seeking leads to interpersonal problems. It is nothing more than a framework used to study the interpersonal aspects of depression: How a depression influences the interpersonal interactions between a depressed person and the people they interact with.
I found a few articles that give a little more detail on the theory, amongst them one by Jeremy Gordon Stewart from 2013 1 :
Coyne’s (1976) interpersonal theory of depression proposes that individuals suffering from depressive symptoms tend to engage in excessive reassurance-seeking (ERS), defined as repetitively asking for assurances from close others about one’s lovability and worth.
Research has shown that ERS is associated with negative evaluations from close others and lower partnerreported romantic relationship satisfaction, specifically (Starr & Davila, 2008). In a recent elaboration of Coyne’s theory, Evraire and Dozois (2011) proposed that ERS might only lead to rejection among individuals who possess core beliefs about the instability and unpredictability of relationships.
It's quite scientifically written, but it proposes that depression leads some people to ask their close others repeatedly to validate their lovability and worth. These close others may eventually grow tired of doing so, and thus the interpersonal relationship with these close others or a partner will deteriorate.
From a second article 2 :
Coyne’s (1976a, 1976b) interactional theory of depression has emerged as one of the most influential frameworks for studying interpersonal aspects of depression. In this model, mildly depressed people attempt to assuage feelings of guilt and low selfworth by seeking reassurance from others. At first, others provide support, but the depressed person doubts its authenticity and continues
to seek reassurance until the other person grows annoyed and rejects them. The rejection exacerbates their symptoms as the cycle continues.
They give a pretty good definition of what the excessive reassurance seeking is: asking for reassurance until the other party grows annoyed and rejects them.
As for what 'depressive symptoms' are, they are the symptoms that might indicate a depression, such as this list from the nhs:
The psychological symptoms of depression include:
- continuous low mood or sadness
- feeling hopeless and helpless
- having low self-esteem
- feeling tearful
- feeling guilt-ridden
- feeling irritable and intolerant of others
- having no motivation or interest in things
- finding it difficult to make decisions
- not getting any enjoyment out of life
- feeling anxious or worried
- having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
Someone that's depressed and presenting symptoms of ERS is trying to remedy these feelings of low-self esteem, guilt, anxiety, worries with reassurance from others.
How is it applicable to life in modern society?
The interpersonal theory of depression is meant to give a framework to study the interpersonal aspects of depression, mostly focused on the part of depressed people seeking reassurance from their peers. So, the most direct application to life would be when you're studying depression and it's influence on interpersonal interactions.
As stated in this article: 2
Interpersonal models have guided understanding of the etiology,
course, consequences, and treatment of depression.
Etiology is a medical term that means the cause, set of causes, or manner of causation of a disease or condition.
So, asides from just using the interpersonal theory of depression to better understand depression, it may also lead to an understanding of where this depression comes from, and lead to ways to prevent and treat depression (either by treating the consequences or 'curing' it).
1: Stewart, J. Testing an Integrated Interpersonal Theory of Depression: The Role of Dysphoria, Negative
Relationship Cognitions and Excessive Reassurance-Seeking in Predicting Rejection, June 2013
2: Starr, L. and Davila J. Excessive Reassurance Seeking, Depression, and Interpersonal Rejection: A Meta-Analytic Review, 2008