A recent study published in the Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science suggests that individuals who have recovered from major depressive episodes exhibit a cognitive bias towards processing negative information.
Such a bias could put them at a greater risk of experiencing another depressive episode.
Conducted by Alainna Wen, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar at the Anxiety and Depression Research Center at UCLA, the research involved a meta-analysis of 44 studies, totaling 2,081 participants with a history of major depressive disorder and 2,285 healthy controls.
The study found that people with a history of major depression spent more time processing negative emotional stimuli than positive or neutral ones.
“Because more negative thinking and mood and less positive thinking and mood are characteristic of depression, this could mean that these individuals are at a greater risk for having another depressive episode,” Wen said.
Context and Implications
Major depression is a widespread mental disorder, affecting approximately 21 million adults in the U.S. in 2020 alone.
Despite existing treatments, more than 50% of individuals with a history of a major depressive episode will experience a relapse within two years of recovery.
Understanding the cognitive biases these individuals exhibit could provide crucial insights into more effective treatment methods.
Wen points out that simply focusing on reducing the processing of negative information may not suffice in preventing a relapse.
“Patients may also benefit from strategies to increase the processing of positive information,” she said.
While the study is insightful, it is crucial to recognize that it identifies correlations and not causative factors. Future studies should aim to understand the underlying mechanisms that contribute to this biased cognitive processing.
This study adds to the body of research seeking to understand the complexities of major depressive disorder and offers a new perspective on the cognitive patterns associated with the illness.
It highlights the need for treatments to focus not just on reducing negative thinking but also on encouraging positive cognitive processing to potentially prevent future depressive episodes.
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The research findings can be found in the Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science.
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