Depression is an established predictor of adverse cardiovascular disease outcomes. Less is known about cardiovascular risk factors as predictors of depression. In this issue of Psychosomatic Medicine (2018;80:508-514), Patel et al. report data indicating that pre-existing hypertension may be inversely associated with the atypical but not typical form of depression. We highlight here the strengths and limitations of the article and discuss the findings in light of research linking blood pressure and emotion regulation. In general, evidence suggests that higher blood pressure is associated with reduced expression of negative emotions and pain. Two prominent models of interaction have been proposed and supported by epidemiological and experimental research: one assumes that elevations in blood pressure lead to reduced arousal and pain sensitivity through baroreceptor activation and possibly additional afferent mechanisms. Operant conditioning may then result in (chronic) hypertension. The other one posits that impaired emotion processing as indicated by dampened emotion recognition may lead to disinhibition of hypothalamic centers and thereby result in sustained increases in blood pressure. These models are described in context of the current literature and open research questions are formulated.
- emotional dampening