People who are depressed often do little to improve their mood, even when given the chance, a new study finds.
In fact, their choices often make them sadder, the research found.
Ms Yael Millgram, the study’s first author, said:
“Our findings show that, contrary to what we might expect, depressed people sometimes choose to behave in a manner that increases rather than decreases their sadness.
This is important because it suggests that depressed individuals may sometimes be unsuccessful in decreasing their sadness in daily life because, in some sense, they hold on to it.”
Managing and controlling your emotions is an important part of everyday life.
The researchers looked at the decisions both depressed and nondepressed people made in this regard.
In one trial people looked at happy, sad and neutral photos.
Participants were then given the choice of which photos to look at again.
Ironically, depressed people were more likely to look at the sad photos again.
In another trial, the researchers used happy, sad and neutral music.
Again, it was the sad music that was chosen by 62% of depressed people, as opposed to only 24% of nondepressed people.
Ms Millgram said:
“Depressed participants indicated that they would feel less sad if they listened to happy music and more sad if they listened to sad music, but they picked the sad music to listen to.
We were surprised that depressed participants made such choices although they were aware of how these types of music would make them feel.”
Why depressed people should chose to reinforce their depressed mood is not yet known.
Ms Millgram said:
“The most urgent task for us is to try to understand why depressed people regulate their emotions in a manner that increases rather than decreases sadness.”
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Milgram et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: kygp