The role of defeat and entrapment in depression, anxiety, and suicide

Peter James Taylor, Patricia Gooding, Alex M. Wood, Nicholas Tarrier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

267 Citations (Scopus)


Defeat and entrapment are psychological constructs that have played a central role in evolutionary accounts of depression. These concepts have since been implicated in theoretical accounts of anxiety disorders and suicidality. The current article reports on a systematic review of the existing research investigating the links among defeat, entrapment, and psychopathology in the domains of depression, suicidality, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other anxiety syndromes. 

Fifty-one original research articles were identified and critically reviewed. There was strong convergent evidence for a link with depressive symptoms, across a variety of clinical and nonclinical samples. Preliminary support for an association with suicidality was also observed, with effects not readily explainable in terms of comorbid depression. There was strong evidence for an association between defeat and PTSD, although this may have been partly accounted for by comorbid depression. 

The findings for other anxiety disorders were less consistent. There was, however, evidence that social anxiety in individuals with psychosis may be related to perceptions of entrapment. Overall, there was evidence that perceptions of defeat and entrapment were closely associated with various forms of human psychopathology. These effects were often in the moderate to large range and superseded the impact of other environmental and psychological stressors on psychopathology. We provide a unified theoretical model of how defeat and entrapment may contribute to these different psychopathological conditions. Clinical implications and avenues for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-420
Number of pages30
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Defeat
  • Depression
  • Entrapment
  • Suicide


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